Alice Dreger is an historian of medicine and science, a sex researcher, a mainstream writer, and an (im)patient advocate. An award-winning scholar and writer, Dreger’s latest major book is Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice, which argues that the pursuit of evidence is the most important ethical imperative of our time.
Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and published by Penguin Press in 2015, Galileo's Middle Finger has been praised in reviews in The New Yorker, Nature, Science, Forbes, New York Magazine, Human Nature, and Salon. It was named an “Editor’s Choice” by The New York Times Book Review and has been recommended by Steve Pinker, Dan Savage, Jared Diamond, and E.O. Wilson (read more). The Chronicle of Higher Education has called Dreger a “star scholar” and describes her writing as “reliably funny and passionate and vulnerable.”
Dreger earned her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University in 1995, where her work was supported by a Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Since then, she has embodied the notion of the public intellectual, simultaneously publishing widely-cited major original work in scholarly journals and high-visibility essays in the mainstream press. She has served as a regular writer for the health sections of The Atlantic and Pacific Standard and for the blog of Psychology Today, and her op-eds have appeared in numerous other venues, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, WIRED, Slate, The LA Times, The Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Statesman.
Dreger's writing has been selected for Norton's annual Best Creative Non-Fiction volume, and the UTNE Reader has named her a "visionary." She frequently delivers keynotes and plenaries, and to date has given about 200 invited lectures. The American Philosophical Association considers her a philosopher of note in the "writing" category, and John Green has named her book One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal as among his favorites. The same book has been praised by Jeffrey Eugenides and Abraham Verghese.
In the spring of 2015, Dreger's live-tweeting of her son’s high school sex-ed class sparked an international discussion of abstinence-based education and has led to her new book for parents, The Talk: Helping Your Kids Navigate Sex in the Real World. (Read an excerpt at Pacific Standard.) She is a recipient of an Outstanding Leadership Award in Comprehensive Sexuality Education from SIECUS, Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), and the Healthy Teen Network.
Besides functioning as an historian and writer, in the medical world Dreger has served as a patient advocate and as a consultant to pediatric specialists undertaking clinical reform, particularly in the treatment of children born with norm-challenging body types, including intersex, conjoined twinning, facial anomalies, and short stature.
Founding Board Chair of the Intersex Society of North America, she also served as an ethics consultant to an NIH-funded Translational Research Network on pediatric intersex care and co-edited a medical education guide on LGBT and Differences of Sex Development (DSD) for the Association of American Medical Colleges. She has been on the faculty of several major universities, including most recently (2005-2015) as a full professor in Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She resigned that position following censorship by her dean.
Dreger’s TEDx lecture, “Is Anatomy Destiny,” has been viewed about a million times, and she has appeared as a guest expert on hundreds of media programs, including on Oprah, Savage Love, Good Morning America, and NPR, and in many original documentaries, including for A&E, ABC, Discovery, PBS, and HBO.
A native of New York, she now lives in East Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, teenage son, and a pet rat named Darling. She is the founder, board president, and publisher of East Lansing Info, a nonprofit, citizen-journalist local online news organization that, since being founded in 2014, has produced almost one thousand original reports by over sixty citizen reporters. Her hobbies include canoeing, running, weeding, swimming in open water, and trying reliably to cross the clarinet break.