John Fleischman

John Fleischman

Fellow: Awarded 2005
Field of Study: Science Writing

Competition: US & Canada

American Society for Cell Biology

John Fleischman writes science for the American Society for Cell Biology, books for kids and others, and articles for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin and Air & Space Smithsonian. He was a science writer at Harvard Medical School, a science broadcaster at Boston’s WGBH (public radio), and a senior editor for Yankee and Ohio magazines. With the help of his Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Fleischman is at work on his third nonfiction book for older children about the animals that have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. (You thought only people won them?)

Mr. Fleischman’s most recent nonfiction book for older children was Black & White Airmen: Their True History. Published in 2007 by Houghton-Mifflin Children’s Books of Boston, Airmen was named a 2008 “Orbis Pictus Honor Book for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children” by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Airmen also won the 2008 Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award from the National Council for the Social Studies. Says Mr. Fleischman, “Black & White Airmen is about flying, WWII, segregation, and friendship. And it has a happy ending.”

His first nonfiction book for older kids, Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science, was an American Library Association “Notable Children’s Book” and “Best Book for Young Adults” in 2003. It was also named an “Orbis Pictus Honor Book” by the NCTE in 2003.

Mr. Fleischman says, “It was my good fortune as a science writer to stumble upon my ideal readers when I was turning fifty and they’d yet to reach thirteen. We met over a human skull on display in the town hall of Cavendish, Vermont. It was the skull of Phineas Gage, a railroad construction foreman who was blasting rock just outside Cavendish in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his frontal cortex of his brain. Miraculously, Phineas survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in neurology. In honor of the 150th anniversary of his accident, Cavendish was hosting both a serious scientific seminar and a folksy country festival. Harvard Medical School had agreed to display the skull of Phineas Gage for a single afternoon in the town hall. By the time I arrived, the line of curious townspeople, tourists, and local school children was out the door. Grown-ups or kids, everyone seemed to have the same first reaction to the skull. Everyone winced. But I noticed that older kids had different second reactions. Some winced and turned away, eyes shut. Others winced, and then looked again and again, often ending with their noses pressed to the glass. Kids who want to see for themselves turned out to be my ideal readers.”

John Fleischman is also the author of Mid Century City about Cincinnati photographer Sarge Marsh (2006), Free & Public, a history of the Cincinnati public library (2003), and The Ohio Lands, a natural history book (1995). He has contributed to many magazines including Discover, Smithsonian, Preservation, Audubon, The Atlantic Monthly, Archaeology, Yankee, Parents, and Muse. He is a native of New York City and a graduate of Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife, Mary. 

Profile photograph provided courtesy of Suzanne Fedoruk.

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