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Blakeslee, Sandra 1943-

Blakeslee, Sandra 1943-

PERSONAL:

Born July 24, 1943, in Flushing, NY; daughter of Alton Lauren (a writer) and Virginia (a community volunteer) Blakeslee; married Kenneth Lyell Stallcup (a computer software developer), June, 1971 (divorced); life partner: Carl Moore (a consultant); children: (from first marriage) Matthew Jeremy, Abi. Education: Attended Northwestern University, 1961-63; University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1965. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, hiking, hiking, skiing, and running.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—Santa Fe, NM. Agent—Carol Mann, 55 5th Ave., New York, NY 10003. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Peace Corps, Sarawak, Borneo, teacher, 1965-67; United Nations, New York, NY, clerk, 1967-68; New York Times, New York, NY, science correspondent, 1968—. Science advisor to Foundation for American Communications.

MEMBER:

National Association of Science Writers.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Westinghouse Award, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1971; Howard Blakeslee Award, American Heart Association, 1987; Templeton Journalism Fellowship, 2007.

WRITINGS:

(With Laurian Gillespie) You Don't Have to Live With Cystitis, Rawson, Wade (New York, NY), 1986.

(Editor) Human Heart Replacement: A New Challenge for Physicians and Reporters, Gannett Foundation (Rochester, NY), 1986.

(With Judith S. Wallerstein) Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade after Divorce, Ticknor & Fields (New York, NY), 1989, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.

(With Judith S. Wallerstein) The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.

(With V.S. Ramachandran) Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Judith S. Wallerstein and Julia Lewis) The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Judith S. Wallerstein) What about the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and after Divorce, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Jeff Hawkins) On Intelligence, Times Books (New York, NY), 2004.

(With son, Matthew Blakeslee) The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Anything Better, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Sandra Blakeslee is a science correspondent for the New York Times and other periodicals. She specializes in neuroscience but has also written on numerous topics pertinent to physical and mental health. In 1998, Blakeslee teamed with V.S. Ramachandran to publish Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, a study of the brain's circuitry and how it performs both in healthy and pathological circumstances. In the work, the authors describe Ramachandran's "experiences with patients whose clinical problems provide insight into the workings of the brain," wrote New York Times Book Review correspondent Michael E. Goldberg. The authors explore science's effort, Goldberg continued, "to understand why brain damage can make a young man think his parents are impostors, or a woman with a stroke laugh uncontrollably; how a man with a stroke can be unaware that his left side is paralyzed, or why certain types of epileptic patients have intense religious experiences." The book is intended for general audiences—one reviewer even felt that teens would find it interesting. Library Journal contributor Laurie Bartolini found it "absorbing and enlightening," and a Publishers Weekly review deemed it "entertaining, tip-of-the-neurological-iceberg sleuthing." In a review posted on the New York University Web site, Susan Hurley praised Phantoms in the Brain as "a pleasure to read and [a] valuable contribution to popular science." Hurley added that the work is enriched by its "wealth of clinical details, the lucidity of [Ramachandran's] theorizing, and the ease with which he moves between them."

Blakeslee is better known for her long-standing collaboration with Judith Wallerstein, a research psychologist who has studied the effects of divorce on children. More than thirty years ago, Wallerstein began charting the social and emotional development of a select group of children from divorced households. She followed these same children as they grew into adulthood, noting their particular vulnerabilities. While Wallerstein and Blakeslee have been careful not to draw conclusions from the study, due to its size and the lack, early on, of a control group, their books do indicate that children of divorce suffer the consequences of their parents' actions well into adulthood. As Blakeslee told Publishers Weekly, "the big surprise, by following them into their 20s and 30s and 40s, was that there were these whole bunch of feelings no one could have predicted."

The first Blakeslee-Wallerstein collaboration was Second Chances: Men, Women, and Children a Decade after Divorce. More recently they have published (with Julia Lewis) The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, and in between those two they coauthored a book on successful marriage titled TheGood Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts. While all of these works state that children are best served emotionally by the presence of both parents within the home, they neither condemn divorce out of hand nor advocate remaining in a bad marriage for the sake of the children. As Margaret Talbot noted in the New York Times Book Review, the notion that children quickly rebound from the trauma of divorce "has … begun to seem more self-serving than truthful—and for this dawning recognition we owe a great deal to the work of the psychologist Judith Wallerstein. She, more than anyone else, has made us face the truth that a divorce can free one or both parents to start a new and more hopeful life and still hurt their children."

While Wallerstein is the acknowledged scientist behind Second Chances, The Good Marriage, and The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, reviewers have duly noted Blakeslee's abilities as a science writer. In a New York Times Book Review piece about Second Chances, Carol Tavris wrote: "Many books in popular psychology are a melange of the author's comments, a dollop of research, and stupefyingly dull transcriptions from interviews. This is the first book-length study I've read in a long time that avoids this formula, undoubtedly because of the skill of the coauthor, Sandra Blakeslee…. The research findings, clinical interpretations and interviews are interwoven beautifully. The case studies are believable and compelling, and benefit enormously from the Rashomon effect of hearing from all members of a family." Tavris concluded that the book "is a beautiful piece of writing, full of insights that will prove indispensable to people contemplating divorce as a necessary evil." In a similar vein, Atlantic Monthly reviewer Barbara Dafoe Whitehead commended The Good Marriage for its "modesty." Whitehead explained: "It doesn't pretend to offer a philosophy or even a lecture on marriage. It takes no position on the ideologically charged issues of women's marital roles and status…. It is refreshingly free of ‘rights’ talk and therapy talk. Indeed, [the authors place] much more emphasis on the development of good judgment and a moral sense than on the acquisition of effective communication or negotiation skills."

What about the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and after Divorce, again written with Wallerstein, takes a look at the traumatic effects that divorce can have on children, from the fighting that leads to the decision to split up to the tug-of-war that often results from the divorce itself. The book stresses the importance of communication with one's children at every stage of the process in order to give them the sense of security inherent to knowing what is going on. Divorce is also not something that passes for children, as the separation of two parents will continue to affect them in different ways at different stages of their lives. Vanessa Bush, in a review for Booklist, dubbed Blakeslee's and Wallerstein's effort as "a very valuable resource for families at any stage of breakup."

On Intelligence, which Blakeslee collaborated on with Jeff Hawkins, addresses the question of whether man can build a machine smarter than himself, in this case, a computer with the capacity to be more intelligent than the most brilliant human being on record. Previously the stuff of science fiction—primarily the type that features the world being taken over by the more intelligent machines—this concept has begun to become a potential reality. Hawkins has a background in both computer science and neuroscience, and he is responsible for such creations as the Palm Pilot and Treo's Smart Phone, both of which were baby steps on the road to intellectual computers. As of yet, computers are merely far faster than human beings, able to perform calculations in mere second that would take a person hours, or even days, to solve. However, computers are nowhere near as advanced as human beings when it comes to far simpler tasks, such as facial or speech recognition. In Hawkins's opinion, this is because scientists have failed to look at the larger picture when it comes to developing Artificial Intelligence; rather than determining how to achieve an end result, he believes it would be more beneficial to look at the processors responsible for all of the calculations and decisions, and to connect them in a way similar to the neurobiological connectors within a human's brain. Blakeslee and Hawkins's book gives readers an easily understood look at the progress being made in this area of science, though the work is still geared toward science students or those in the field. John Rooney, in a review for the Philadelphia Enquirer, noted that "the book is eminently readable, considering the topic. Sandra Blakeslee, a science writer with excellent credentials who collaborated with Hawkins, has no doubt contributed here." Lynn Yarris, writing for the Mercury News, agreed, stating: "Hawkins and Blakeslee make a terrific team that has produced a stellar book."

The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Anything Better, which Blakeslee wrote with her son Matthew Blakeslee, gives readers a synthesized explanation of how the brain tracks the different regions of the body, and the ways in which these maps provide us with control over various actions as well as keeping automatic behaviors, such as breathing and blinking, on the proper track. Alterations in behavior can likewise alter the maps, as the brain processes the new information and updates accordingly. But there is a certain permanence that is also inherent in this neurological system, which accounts for various phenomena, such as someone who has lost a limb still feeling sensation in that missing body part, or a person who has lost a great deal of weight maintaining their old body image and feeling as if they are still fat. In a review for Booklist, Gilbert Taylor commented of the book: "Varied and revealing, this will intrigue readers interested in the clinical perspective on self-perception." A critic for Kirkus Reviews noted that there were some areas that the Blakeslees ignored, such as the role of hormones, or dismissed despite their importance, such as pain. The reviewer concluded, however, that the book is, "despite some flaws, a text with much to be savored—not least the upbeat message that you can take control." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found that "this entertaining book will appeal to readers who prefer their science lighthearted and low-key."

Blakeslee once told CA: "I am captivated by neuroscience, molecular biology, and other life sciences. These topics are endlessly fascinating. My goal is to captivate readers and to instill in them a sense of discovery about ideas that matter."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlantic Monthly, September, 1995, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, "The Moral State of Marriage."

Booklist, September 15, 1998, William Beatty, review of Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, p. 181; February 1, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of What about the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and after Divorce, p. 962; August, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Anything Better, p. 11.

Christian Century, January 31, 1996, Trudy Bush review of The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, p. 109.

Commentary, January, 2001, Claudia Winkler, review of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, p. 76.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2007, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.

Library Journal, October 15, 1998, Laurie Bartolini, review of Phantoms in the Brain, p. 94.

Mercury News, October 17, 2004, Lynn Yarris, review of On Intelligence.

National Review, October 9, 2000, James Q. Wilson, "Marriage Matters."

New York Times, February 11, 1989, Caryn James, "Sins of the Fathers and Mothers," p. A16.

New York Times Book Review, February 26, 1989, Carol Tavris, "A Remedy but Not a Cure," p. 13; January 17, 1999, Michael E. Goldberg, "Gone Haywire," p. 16; October 1, 2000, Margaret Talbot, "The Price of Divorce."

Philadelphia Enquirer, November 29, 2005, John Rooney, review of On Intelligence.

Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1998, review of Phantoms in the Brain, p. 65; July 17, 2000, review of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, p. 181; August 14, 2000, Bridget Kinsella, "Parents Split; the Kids Can't Commit," p. 201; June 4, 2007, review of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, p. 42.

ONLINE

New York University Web site,http://www.nyu.edu/ (September 24, 2000), Susan Hurley, "Making up Minds."

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