Writer | Historian | Journalist
Alice Dreger, Ph.D., is a writer, historian, journalist, and, for the last seven years, an accidental local news publisher. She is perpetually drawn to open water, literally and figuratively.
The winner of the inaugural Courage Award from the Heterodox Academy, Dreger has had bylines the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, WIRED, Slate, the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Aeon Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, New Statesman, Quillette, New Statesman, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Her books have been published by Penguin Press, Harvard University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Amazon Kindle Singles.
Dreger’s best known 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, the book has been praised in reviews in The New Yorker, Nature, Science, Forbes, New York Magazine, Human Nature, and Salon.
Galileo’s Middle Finger 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, among others (read more). The work received the book-of-the-year award for nonfiction from the Society of Midland Authors. The American Philosophical Association calls her a philosopher of note in the "writing" category, and UTNE Reader named her a visionary.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has called Dreger a “star scholar” and described her writing as “reliably funny and passionate and vulnerable.” Her work has been selected for Norton's annual Best Creative Non-Fiction volume (see "Lavish Dwarf Entertainment"). 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 and was honored by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
The work Dreger does, including as the founder and publisher of a successful local newspaper, is often aimed at getting past partisan politics. The result is being attacked by partisans. She has been denounced by both Rush Limbaugh and the Lambda Literary Foundation. The Intellectual Dark Web tried to absorb her after she was protested at Wellesley College's Freedom Project, and she resigned her position as a full professor at Northwestern's medical school after her dean censored her work for “branding” reasons and instituted a censorship committee for the faculty journal at issue. (Yes, he did.)
Dreger earned her Ph.D. in 1995 in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University, where her work was supported by a Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Since then, she has often been called a public intellectual, in part because she has simultaneously published widely-cited major original work in scholarly journals and high-visibility essays in the mainstream press. People in their 20s know her for having live-tweeted her son's abstinence sex ed class, a viral tweet storm that was funny at the time, but that got her banned from the high school. She is the 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.
Dreger frequently delivers keynotes and plenaries, and to date has given about 200 invited lectures. Her TEDx lecture, Is Anatomy Destiny, has been viewed over a million times, and she has appeared as a guest expert on hundreds of media programs over the years, including Oprah, Savage Love, Good Morning America, and NPR, and in many original documentaries, including for A&E, ABC, Discovery, PBS, and HBO.
Dreger now divides her time between East Lansing, Michigan, and Hyde Park, Chicago, but she is still a New Yorker in her soul.
Photograph by Harley J. Seeley, copyright Alice Dreger 2017.