Mann, Charles C.
Mann, Charles C.
PERSONAL: Married; children.
ADDRESSES: Home—Amherst, MA. Agent—Richard Balkin, Balkin Agency, P.O. Box 222, Amherst, MA 01002.
CAREER: Science journalist. Writer of content for CD-ROMs.
AWARDS, HONORS: Writing prizes from American Bar Association, American Institute of Physics, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Margaret Sanger Foundation.
(With Robert P. Crease) The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986, revised edition, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1996.
(With Mark Plummer) The Aspirin Wars: Money, Medicine, and 100 Years of Rampant Competition, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Mark L. Plummer) Noah's Choice: The Future of Endangered Species, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
(With David Freedman) At Large: The Strange Case of the World's Biggest Internet Invasion, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
Writings published in The Best American Science Writing 2003 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003. Text editorial coordinator for photograph collections Material World, 1994, Women in the Material World, 1996, and Hungry Planet, 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Wired, Science, Forbes, Smithsonian, New York Times, and the Washington Post. Writer for television show Law and Order and for Home Box Office.
SIDELIGHTS: A trip to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula inspired science writer Charles C. Mann to undertake a study of the latest findings on the nature of civilization in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans. Traveling widely on his own, and interviewing archeologists, anthropologists, and wildlife biologists, Mann discovered surprising facts about Indians—his preferred term for Native Americans—and how they made use of the continents on which they lived. Mann's book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus draws on the writings of the first European visitors, as well as abundant evidence from sites in North, Central, and South America, to construct a whole new view of Indians and how they lived.
Mann asserts that the Indian population of the Americas was far higher than previously believed, and probably equaled that of Europe. Some of the cities in Mexico and South America were larger than London or Paris of the same era. Most importantly, Indians did not live the primitive lives of hunter-gatherers in so-called harmony with nature. Instead they cultivated great swaths of land, bio-engineered plants, and kept animal populations under control. One of Mann's most controversial points in 1491 revolves around Indian cultivation habits. The author describes large cities surrounded by vast fields, a far cry from the "noble savage" or solemn guardian of nature stereotypes that have long been used to characterize primitive peoples of the Western Hemisphere. According to Mann, the European diseases to which natives of the Americas had no immunity spread more rapidly than European colonists, giving the wildlife and plant life of the Americas time to proliferate before being reoccupied. "Mann has written a landmark of a book that drops ingrained images of colonial America into the dustbin one after the other, such as that of the Pilgrims finding a pristine world of woodlands and guileless natives," wrote Roger Atwood in the Boston Globe. In the Washington Post Book World, Alan Taylor observed: "By dispelling these myths to recover the intensive and ingenious native presence in the ancient Americas, Mann seeks an environmental ethos for our own future. Instead of restoring a mythical Eden, we should emulate the Indian management of a more productive and enduring garden. In sum, Mann tells a powerful, provocative and important story."
1491 received other warm reviews, as well, and was generally praised for altering long-held views on the nature of Indian society. Both Booklist and Publishers Weekly critics gave the work starred reviews, indicating a superior volume. The Publishers Weekly critic called Mann's book "a riveting and fast-paced history … first-rate." A Kirkus Reviews contributor likewise labeled the work "a bracing corrective" that is "excellent and highly accessible." Reacting to the many myths Mann challenges in 1491, Mary D'Ambrosio concluded in the San Francisco Chronicle that the author "has chronicled an important shift in our vision of world development, one our young children could end up studying in their textbooks when they reach junior high."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, p. 1986.
Boston Globe, August 28, 2005, Roger Atwood, "What Columbus and Other Explorers Found Was Not Wilderness but a Variety of Large, Sophisticated Societies."
Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 28, 2005, "An Updated View of the Americas before Columbus."
Esquire, August, 2005, Daniel Torday, "Lies Your Teacher Told You," p. 46.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2005, review of 1491, p. 625.
Library Journal, August 1, 2005, Elizabeth Salt, review of 1491, p. 96.
Miami Herald, August 21, 2005, Charles Matthews, "A Brand New View of the New World."
Publishers Weekly, June 20, 2005, review of 1491, p. 69.
San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 2005, Mary D'Ambrosio, "The Myth of an Empty Frontier," p. F1.
Seattle Times, August 12, 2005, Bruce Ramsey, review of 1491.
Time, August 17, 2005, Andrea Sachs, "Between the Lines with Charles C. Mann."
Washington Post Book World, August 7, 2005, Alan Taylor, "A Cultivated World," p. 5.
Book Browse, http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (December 12, 2005), interview with Charles C. Mann.
Book Reporter, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 1, 2005), Robert Finn, review of 1491.
Charles C. Mann Home Page, http://www.charlesmann.org (February 21, 2006).
Time Online, http://www.time.com/ (August 17, 2005), Andrea Sachs, "Between the Lines with Charles C. Mann," interview and discussion of 1491.