Michael Specter

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Michael Specter
Michael Specter Headshot new.jpg
Born1955 (age 65–66)
Alma materVassar College (B.A , 1977)
SpouseAlessandra Stanley (former)

Michael Specter (born 1955) is an American journalist who has been a staff writer, focusing on science and technology, and global public health at The New Yorker since September 1998. He has also written for The Washington Post and The New York Times. Since 2019, he has also been an Adjunct Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University. From 2012-2016 Specter was a Visiting Professor of Environmental and Urban Studies at Bard College.


Specter initially covered local news at The Washington Post in 1985 but then became a national science reporter for the Post and finally the New York City bureau chief. In 1991, Specter transferred to the Times. There, from 1994 to 1998, he was based in Moscow. In 1995, he was appointed co-chief of the Moscow bureau of the Times. While in Russia, he covered stories such as the war in Chechnya, the 1996 Russian presidential elections, and the declining state of Russian health care. In 1998, he became a roving correspondent based in Rome covering topics as varied as Europe's demographic crisis, Michelangelo's Florentine Pietà, and the spread of AIDS in Africa.

His 2009 book, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, explores the ways in which people in the United States and Europe have increasingly rejected scientific truths, backed by impressive data. They instead are embracing what often seem to be more comfortable fictions about issues such as the value of organic food, vaccine safety, and personal genomics. Specter delivered a TEDtalk titled "The danger of science denial" at TED 2010.[1]

At The New Yorker, he has written about the global AIDS epidemic, avian influenza, malaria, scientific efforts to resurrect extinct viruses, synthetic biology, genetically modified food, efforts to mine the human genome to fight disease, and the world's diminishing freshwater resources. He has also written profiles of many people, including Dr. Oz, Lance Armstrong, Richard Branson, the ethicist Peter Singer, P. Diddy, Manolo Blahnik, AIDS activist Larry Kramer, and PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Specter wrote and performed Fauci, an Audible-exclusive audiobook about Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.[2][3][4]


In 1996, Specter was awarded the Overseas Press Club Citation for Excellence for his coverage of the War in Chechnya. In 2002, he won the A.A.A.S. Science Journalism Award.[5] He has also twice received the Global Health Council's Annual Excellence in Media Award- for his piece about AIDS in India, "India's Plague" (12/17/01) and for one about AIDS and the population crisis in Russia, "The Devastation".

In 2009, Specter received the Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking for his book Denialism.[6] The yearly award is given by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry to the author of the published work that best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science.

Specter received the 2014 Mirror Prize for best Profile, from the Newhouse School of Communication, for "The Operator," about Mehmet Oz. In 2015 he received a James Beard Award for his New Yorker article “Against the Grain,’’ about America’s obsessive fear of gluten.


Specter is a son of Howard and Eileen Specter. He was previously married to Alessandra Stanley, previously a television critic for The New York Times.[7] They have one daughter, Emma.

Specter is a 1977 graduate of Vassar College, where he majored in English.[8]



  • Specter, Michael (2009). Denialism: how irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms the planet, and threatens our lives. New York: Penguin Press.
  • Specter, Michael (2020). Fauci (audiobook). Pushkin Industries.

Essays and reporting[edit]


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