Mary Roach

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Mary Roach
Born (1959-03-20) March 20, 1959 (age 64)
Etna, New Hampshire
  • Author
  • humorist

Mary Roach (born March 20, 1959) is an American author specializing in popular science and humor.[1] She has published six New York Times bestsellers: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003), Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005), Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008), Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (2010), Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013), and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War (2016).

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Roach was born in Hanover, New Hampshire[2] Her family moved to Etna, a village within the town of Hanover, and Roach attended Hanover High School and received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Wesleyan University in 1981.


Mary Roach with a cat head, 2010

After college, Roach moved to San Francisco, California, and spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor. Her writing career began in the public affairs office of the San Francisco Zoological Society, producing press releases on topics such as wart surgery on elephants. On her days off from the SFZS, she wrote freelance articles for San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday magazine, Image.[3]

She has written essays and feature articles for such publications as Vogue, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Discover Magazine, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Wired[4][5] as well as columns for, In Health ("Stitches"), Reader's Digest ("My Planet"), and Sports Illustrated for Women ("The Slightly Wider World of Sports"),[4] and

From 1996 to 2005, Roach was part of "the Grotto", a San Francisco-based project and community of working writers and filmmakers. It was in this community that Roach got the push she needed to break into book writing.[6] While being interviewed by Alex C. Telander of BookBanter, Roach answered the question of how she got started on her first book:

A few of us every year [from the Grotto] would make predictions for other people, where they'll be in a year. So someone made the prediction that, 'Mary will have a book contract.' I forgot about it and when October came around I thought, I have three months to pull together a book proposal and have a book contract. This is what literally lit the fire under my butt.[7]

Although Roach writes primarily about science, she never intended to make it her career. Roach stated in an interview with, when asked what exactly got her hooked on writing about science, "To be honest, it turned out that science stories were always, consistently, the most interesting stories I was assigned to cover. I didn't plan it like this, and I don't have a formal background in science, or any education in science journalism."[8]

Roach has appeared on numerous television and radio programs including The Daily Show,[9]The Colbert Report,[10] Coast to Coast AM,[11] NPR's "Fresh Air",[12] and C-SPAN2 BookTV "In Depth."[13] Her 2009 TED talk[14] "Ten Things You Didn't Know About Orgasm", made the organization's list of its most popular talks of all time.[15]

Roach floats weightlessly on a parabolic flight while researching Packing For Mars

Roach reviews books for The New York Times, and was the guest editor of the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 edition. She also serves as a member of the Mars Institute's Advisory Board, as an ambassador for Mars One[16] and an advisor for Orion magazine.[17] She has been an Osher Fellow [18] at the San Francisco Exploratorium and has served on the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary.[19]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers was a New York Times Bestseller, a 2003 Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" pick, and one of Entertainment Weekly's "Best Books of 2003." The book has been translated into at least 17 languages, including Hungarian (Hullamerev) and Lithuanian (Negyvėliai). Stiff was also selected for the Washington State University Common Reading Program in 2008–2009.[20]

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, a New York Times Bestseller, was listed as a New York Times Notable Books pick in 2005. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, was chosen as the New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, it was in The Boston Globe Top 5 Science Books, and it was listed as a bestseller in several other publications.[21] In 2011, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, was chosen as the book of the year for the seventh annual "One City One Book: San Francisco Reads" literary event program.[22] Packing for Mars was also sixth on the New York Times Bestseller list.[23] Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal was also a New York Times Bestseller and on the shortlist for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.[24]

Roach was the recipient of the Harvard Secular Society's Rushdie Award[25] in 2012 for her outstanding lifetime achievement in cultural humanism. The same year, she received a Special Citation in scientific inquiry from Maximum Fun. Her article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses, "The Bamboo Solution",[26] took the American Engineering Societies Engineering Journalism Award in the general interest magazine category in 1996. In 1995, Roach's article "How to Win at Germ Warfare"[27] was a National Magazine Award finalist.[28]


Roach at TED conference in 2009
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003, W. W. Norton & Company; ISBN 0-393-32482-6 OCLC 55230887)


  1. ^ Roach, Mary. "Mary Roach".
  2. ^ "Mary Roach, Author of Packing for Mars, Stiff, Spook and Bonk".
  3. ^ Roach, Mary. "About Mary". Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b Roach, Mary. "Mary Roach". KQED. p. KQED Arts. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  5. ^ Roach, Mary (2006-01-18). "Spook". The Writers' Block. NPR. KQED-FM. Archived from the original on 2013-11-12. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  6. ^ Archived 2015-10-16 at the Wayback Machine Archived from the original on 12 August 2016.
  7. ^ Telander, Alex C. (1 May 2009). "Episode 7: Mary Roach". Audio Interviews (MP3). BookBanter. Event occurs at 4:45. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  8. ^ Drummond, Katie (2013-04-17). "Science writer Mary Roach: 'everything I learn is pretty shocking and weird'". The Verge.
  9. ^ "Mary Roach on Gulp". The Daily Show. 2013-04-01.
  10. ^ "Mary Roach". The Colbert Report. Season 1. Episode 15. November 9, 2005.
  11. ^ "Mary Roach". Coast to Coast AM.
  12. ^ "In Digestion: Mary Roach Explains What Happens To The Food We Eat". npr. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Mary Roach on the C-SPAN Networks". c-span. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  14. ^ Roach, Mary. "Mary Roach | Speaker | TED". Retrieved 2020-08-15.
  15. ^ "The most popular talks of all time". Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Mary Roach". Mars One.
  17. ^ "Advisor List for Orion Magazine". Orion Magazine. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  18. ^ "Mary Roach Osher Fellow". 16 August 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  19. ^ Roach, Mary (28 June 2012). "Mary Roach". Twitter. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  20. ^ Pullman (12 September 2008). "Common Reading Program welcomes author Mary Roach". WSU News. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  21. ^ Roach, Mary. "Spook:Science Tackles the Afterlife". Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  22. ^ "One City One Book 2011". San Francisco Public Library. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  23. ^ Roach, Mary. "Packing for Mars". Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  24. ^ Hogenboom, Melissa (10 November 2014). "Materials book wins Royal Society Winton Prize". BBC. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  25. ^ Chandonnet, Sarah (29 March 2012). "Author Mary Roach to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award". Humanist Community Project At Harvard. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  26. ^ Roach, Mary (June 1996). "The Bamboo Solution". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  27. ^ Roach, Mary. "How to Win at Germ Warfare" (PDF). slhspapbio. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  28. ^ "Health". MPA – the Association of Magazine Media. Archived from the original on 2016-09-17. Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  29. ^ Gussman, Neil (2017). "Military Solution". Distillations. 3 (1): 38–41. Retrieved April 13, 2018.

External links[edit]