Fischetti, Mark

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Office—Scientific American, Inc., 415 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017.


Writer. Scientific American, New York, NY, science writer and contributing editor.


(Editor) The Family Business Management Handbook, Family Business (Philadelphia, PA), 1996.

(With Tim Berners-Lee) Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

(With Elinor Levy) The New Killer Diseases: How the Alarming Evolution of Mutant Germs Threatens Us All, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times and Smithsonian. Coeditor of quarterly magazine Scientific American Presents.


Mark Fischetti is a science writer who has collaborated on several books, including Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor. His coauthor is the inventor and British-born physicist Tim Berners-Lee, who in the 1950s constructed his first computer from a television and other parts. In constructing the Web, he developed the protocols necessary to its success, including the HTML language, and built in the capability that would allow it to work with various operating systems, including Unix, Windows, and Macintosh. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Berners-Lee "was very, very right a decade ago, and he's well worth reading now."

The authors write that because Berners-Lee did not develop the Web as a commercial venture it drew in the open society collaborators that helped build it; otherwise, competing startups might have hindered its development as we know it today. Their history goes back to the 1960s, with the foundations of hypertext as developed by Ted Nelson, and Doug Engelbart's invention of the mouse. The authors then move forward to Berners-Lee's earliest work on what would be the Web in his CERN lab in Geneva, Switzerland, and the launching of the Web in 1989. They also provide a history of the earlier development of the Internet, the communications infrastructure that links computers together, which was funded by the U.S. government.

Fischetti and Berners-Lee, furthermore, note the obstacles that had to be overcome to get the Web into the global public domain and the fortunes that were made as a result. Mosaic, the first browser, which was created at the University of Illinois in 1993, was commercialized as Netscape by one of its creators. When the company went public in 1995, its worth skyrocketed to more than four billion dollars after only one day of trading. Weaving the Web goes on to address the most current concerns regarding the Web, including the sale of domain names, which can be snapped up by those with the most resources. "Overall," wrote Michael Johnsen in Video Age International, "Weaving the Web offers a farsighted view of technology's latest development, with both a comprehensive gaze into the past and a realistic window of the future."

Berners-Lee became director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-based World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees Web standards. Even though it is often assumed that the "inventor of the World Wide Web" is incredibly wealthy, he is not. It is clear, however, that the Web is universal, and that it is conducive to commercial enterprise.

Fischetti next wrote The New Killer Diseases: How the Alarming Evolution of Mutant Germs Threatens Us All with immunologist Elinor Levy. Here they document the symptoms, outcomes, changes, and rates of occurrence for viral and bacterial diseases that include strep, E. coli, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease), tuberculosis, HIV, anthrax, West Nile virus, and SARS. Specific cases, such as that of a three-year-old who died of E. coli after eating watermelon from a salad bar, put a human face on the deaths that have resulted.

A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that The New Killer Diseases's "militaristic language and alarmist tone … resemble the scare tactics of political and military propaganda." And Claire Panosian Dunavan, a professor of medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine and a practicing infectious disease and tropical medicine specialist, said in a Los Angeles Times article that the book misses "the bigger picture. Since the late 1990s, for example, BSE and West Nile encephalitis have claimed no more than 600 European and American lives in total. In contrast, cerebral malaria (a condition that can be reversed with drugs that cost a dollar or two per patient) has silently killed several million African children, many of whom never got close to medical help. Now there's a killer disease." However, a Kirkus Reviews critic asserted that "given the emergency and headline-making spread from Asia of the mysterious new killer SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the warnings sounded here seem especially timely."



Booklist, September 15, 1999, Benjamin Segedin, review of Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor, p. 207.

Inc., October, 1999, review of Weaving the Web, p. 93.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of The New Killer Diseases: How the Alarming Evolution of Mutant Germs Threatens Us All, p. 660.

Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2003, Claire Panosian Dunavan, review of The New Killer Diseases.

New York Times, October 24, 1999, Katie Hafner, review of Weaving the Web, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1999, review of Weaving the Web, p. 72; April 28, 2003, review of The New Killer Diseases, p. 56.

Video Age International, January, 2000, Michael Johnsen, review of Weaving the Web, p. 14.*