Society & Culture

Author, Pulitzer-winning UGA alumna returns home for lecture

Author, Pulitzer-winning UGA alumna returns home for lecture

Athens, Ga. – Pulitzer Prize winner and University of Georgia alumna Deborah Blum (ABJ ’76) returns to campus on Tuesday, March 30, to discuss and sign her new book, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.Blum’s address, sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, will begin at 4 p.m. in Room 171, Miller Learning Center. It is free and open to the public.

Blum will tell the story of how the New York criminal justice system reluctantly embraced toxicology. A review in The Washington Post concludes, “The Poisoner’s Handbook is as thrilling as any CSI episode but it also offers something even better: an education in how forensics really works.”

“Deborah’s many friends, colleagues and fans look forward with great anticipation to her Athens visit,” said Kent Middleton, head of Grady’s department of journalism. “She’s unrivaled in science journalism.”

The science writer and former newspaper reporter is currently the Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches science journalism, creative-non-fiction, magazine writing and investigative reporting.

Blum has always considered herself a southerner, although she was born in Illinois. Her parents moved to Baton Rouge, La. when she was 2 years old, and to Athens when she was 12 years old. She has always believed that the southern culture of storytelling influenced her use of narrative in writing about science.

The Poisoner’s Handbook is Blum’s fifth book. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 forher newspaper series investigating ethical issues and dilemmas in primate research.

While a UGA student, Blum interned for several Georgia newspapers, as well as served as a press intern for then-U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of the Armed Services Committee. After graduation, she worked at The Gainesville Times, The Macon Telegraph and Florida’s St. Petersburg Times before deciding to become a science writer. She earned her master’s degree in journalism, focused on environmental writing, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1982.

Blum then moved to California to work for McClatchy newspapers, first in Fresno and then in Sacramento. During her 13 years at The Sacramento Bee, she won numerous awards for her work, culminating in the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting.

Two years later, her award-winning primate research series became her first book, The Monkey Wars. She has since written four more books including Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences between Men and Women (1997), Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection (2002) and Ghost Hunters: William James and Scientific Search for Life after Death (2006). Blum also is the co-editor of a widely used guide to science writing, A Field Guide for Science Writers.

A past-president of the National Association of Science Writers, Blum serves as the North American board member to the World Federation of Science Journalists. She also sits on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and is a member of the board on life sciences of the National Academy of Sciences.

Blum has written for The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Discover, Psychology Today, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone Books, The Utne Reader, Health magazine, The Huffington Post, Science News and New Scientist, among others.

While on campus she also will meet with Grady College students in the Knight Health and Medical Journalism program on Wednesday morning, followed by a discussion and pizza lunch at 12:15 p.m. in the Drewry Room open to all Grady students.

Established in 1915, the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication offers undergraduate majors in advertising, broadcast news, magazines, newspapers, public relations, publication management and telecommunication arts. The college offers two graduate degrees, and is home to WNEG-TV, the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes for excellence in electronic media. For more information, see or follow Grady on Twitter at