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Shell, Ellen Ruppel 1952-

SHELL, Ellen Ruppel 1952-

PERSONAL: Born November 11, 1952, in Auburn, NY; daughter of Kenneth (a physician) and Ilse (a teacher; maiden name, Voehl; present surname, Salomon) Ruppel; married Martin Shell (a consultant), July 13, 1975; children: Alison, Joanna. Education: University of Rochester, B.A., 1974.

ADDRESSES: Home—26 Park Pl., Newton, MA 02160. Office—College of Communications, Boston University, 640 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA, 02215. Agent—Kris Dahl, International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Technology Review, Cambridge, MA, senior editor, 1980-82; Technology Illustrated, Boston, MA, senior editor, 1982-83; WGBH-TV, Boston, series editor, 1988-90; Boston University, Boston, MA, associate professor and codirector of Science Journalism Program, 1990—.

MEMBER: National Association of Science Writers, Writers Union.

AWARDS, HONORS: Knight Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985; finalist, National Magazine Award, 1985.


A Child's Place: A Year in the Life of a Day Care Center, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.

The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to magazines, including Discover, New York Times Magazine, and Smithsonian. Correspondent for Atlantic Monthly. Contributing editor, Parenting, 1990—.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Research on the national health care system and on education.

SIDELIGHTS: Ellen Ruppel Shell once told CA: "I write about public policy, whether the issue is science, education, or early childhood." In her book The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin, Shell tackles the problem of obesity, incorporating discussions of science, social history, and consumer culture. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that The Hungry Gene is "a compelling depiction of the complexity and size of the plague of obesity."

Shell introduces the reader to a host of people working to determine the nature of obesity, including what Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush called "a fascinating cast" of patients, doctors, and scientists. The rapid rise in the obesity rate among Americans has led to a race to discover its cause and find potential cures; genetics, environment, public policy, and social opinion all come into play. The Hungry Gene also discusses the medical research community's relationship to major pharmaceutical companies, which stand to make a large profit by marketing weight-reduction drugs.

Included in this multifaceted examination is a discussion of the food industry itself and its effects on the national rise in obesity. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called The Hungry Gene "timely and provocative" in its discussion of the fast-food advertising industry, in which Shell examines the influence of "Big Food" on public nutrition policy. Based on research in America and Micronesia—where a recently Westernized diet has led to a significant increase in obesity—Shell suggests that regulated advertising might help to lower the obesity rate. The Hungry Gene highlights the role of public policy in the obesity epidemic, arguing that governmental nutrition groups should be doing more to encourage healthy eating habits.



Booklist, September 15, 2002, Vanessa Bush, review of The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin, p. 188.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of The Hungry Gene, pp. 1016-1017.

Publishers Weekly, July 8, 2002, review of The Hungry Gene, p. 38.

Washington Monthly, October, 2002, Stephanie Mencimer, review of The Hungry Gene, p. 50.

Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2003, Daniel Akst, review of The Hungry Gene, p. 119.


Boston University Department of Journalism Web site, (February 19, 2003), biography of Ellen Ruppel Shell.*

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