Duncan, David Ewing
Duncan, David Ewing
CAREER: Writer and television producer. Special correspondent and producer for Nightline and 20/20, American Broadcasting Company, Inc. (ABC); producer for Discovery Television. Correspondent for Life magazine and NOVA's ScienceNOW!, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Founder and editorial director of BioAgenda. Instructor in creative writing at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Director of Grotto Nights (stage performances), San Francisco, CA.
AWARDS, HONORS: Journalism Award for best magazine story, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2003, for article "100% Genetically Analyzed," in Wired.
Pedaling the Ends of the Earth, Simon & Schuster(New York, NY), 1985.
From Cape to Cairo: An African Odyssey, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (New York, NY), 1989.
Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1995.
Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating YoungDoctors, Scribner (New York, NY), 1996.
Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine aTrue and Accurate Year, Bard (New York, NY),1998.
The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA: And Other Masterminds from the Frontiers of Biotech, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Vanity Fair, Wired, Discover, Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, Outside, and New York Times. Author of "Dialogues" column for Discover magazine; author of bi-monthly column "Biotech and Creativity," for San Francisco Chronicle.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A book titled Copernicus's Monster: A Brief History of Why We Don't Believe Anything Anymore.
SIDELIGHTS: Although primarily working as a science writer and as a correspondent and producer of science news for television and radio, David Ewing Duncan is the author of several books ranging from science topics to the biography of an early explorer of America to the story of developing the calendar year. In Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas Duncan reveals the life of the Spanish conquistador who conquered the Incan empire of Central America. As depicted by Duncan, de Soto was a man without a conscience who conquered various native peoples in such places as Nicaragua and Panama. He then worked them as slaves, looting gold and other wealth and destroying their civilizations. On the other hand, Duncan reveals that de Soto also earned the admiration and intense loyalty of his men. In the end, de Soto lost more than half of his men before dying at age forty-two of fever. Duncan's account is bolstered by his investigation of recent archeological discoveries, as well as by other research into manuscripts and expedition logs. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "strips away decades of mythmaking to plumb the conquistador mentality in a vibrant, gripping biography." Jay Freeman, writing in Booklist, commented that "Duncan's scholarship and documentation are impeccable, and his chronology unfolds like a superbly crafted novel."
For Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating Young Doctors Duncan took four years to follow the lives of overworked residents in twelve different hospitals. His accounts of the pressures and duties faced by these fledgling doctors reveals problems with a system that does not provide enough supervision for young physicians asked to handle life-and-death situations. In addition to describing the situations and health-training system, the author also offers suggestions for reform. "Duncan … has written a chilling exposéthat should be read at all hospitals and medical schools," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year recounts humankind's efforts over the centuries to develop a useful calendar system beginning with our Stone-Age ancestors, who marked out the moon's cycles on bones. The author delves into the roots of the modern calendar system, which stems from various civilizations in China, India, Mesopotamia, and Rome, to name a few. The author also looks at modern efforts to refine civilization's calculations of time, such as the atomic clock, and looks at how the calendar system has undergone numerous reevaluations and revisions. He also writes about little known aspects of the current calendar system, such as a loss of time due to the Earth's wobbling, and what some perceive to be more serious issues, such as the need for a more uniform approach that has all days falling on the same date each year. Andrew Wickens, writing in Library Journal, called the book "well documented" and "entertaining." A contributor to the Economist wrote: "In this finely researched book, David Ewing Duncan chronicles how mankind has gradually moved towards a common calendar."
Duncan provides profiles of seven pioneering scientists working in the field of genetics in his book The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA: And Other Masterminds from the Frontiers of Biotech. Among those profiled are the codiscoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule, James Watson, and Craig Venter, the founder of a biotech company. In addition to profiling the scientists, the author also enters the narrative when he offers some of his own DNA to geneticist Kari Stefansson to be compared to other DNA samples as a way to look for evidence of the author's predilection for genetic disease. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Rebecca Maksel noted that the author "turns his discerning eye toward the role of personality in science, concluding that individual scientists—and their reputations—are driving the current era of biological discovery as much as the knowledge itself." Maksel also commented, "Duncan's prose is lively and engaging." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the "book as a whole offers a decent historical overview of the contemporary biotech landscape that will appeal to readers unfamiliar with its contours."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1995, Patricia Braun, review of Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas, p. 692; December 15, 1995, Jay Freeman, review of Hernando de Soto, p. 683; June 1, 1998, Bryce Christensen, review of Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, p. 1691.
Christianity Today, March 1, 1999, review of Calendar,p. 71.
Economist, August 8, 1998, review of Calendar, p. 72.
Journal of World History, fall, 2000, Ronald Hutton, review of Calendar, p. 355.
Library Journal, May 15, 1998, Andrew Wickens, review of Calendar, p. 108
Publishers Weekly, November 6, 1995, review of Hernando de Soto, p. 76; April 29, 1996, review of Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating Young Doctors, p. 58; April 11, 2005, review of The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA: And Other Masterminds from the Frontiers of Biotech, p. 45.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2005, Rebecca Maksel, review of The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA, p. C6.
Smithsonian, February, 1999, review of Calendar, p. 48.
American Association for the Advancement of Science Web site, http://www.aaas.org/ (October 1, 2005), "AAAS Science Journalism Awards 2003 Recipients."
David Ewing Duncan Home Page, http://literati.net/ Duncan or http://www.davidewingduncan.net/index (October 1, 2005).
David Ewing Duncan Web log, http://www.davidewingduncan.net/blog (October 1, 2005).