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  • NYS Writers Institute

Science journalist Jo Marchant: "The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars"

"... the world is connected, ultimately we all share a fate."

Jo Marchant

We connected with Jo Marchant, science writer and author of The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars, a book that seeks to restore our age-old relationship with celestial cycles and the night sky-- powerful forces that have shaped our art, religious beliefs, social status, scientific advances, and even our biology.

The Human Cosmos was named "A Best Book of 2020" by NPR, The Economist, Smithsonian, Library Journal, and Newsweek.

“With whirlwind curiosity and gripping storytelling, Marchant takes us on a trip through time and space, pointing out how our perceptions of the heavens have informed every step of our evolution as a civilization. Dazzling and profound, The Human Cosmos is a skyward gaze at the void we can never stop trying to fathom.” --NPR Book Concierge

Purchase The Human Cosmos from the independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza:

Based in London, Jo Marchant earned a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London, and an MSc in Science Communication from Imperial College London. She previously worked as a senior editor at New Scientist and Nature.

Her books tackle the story of humanity, from the wonders of ancient civilizations to the mysteries of our bodies and brains. Her most recent book was the 2016 New York Times bestseller Cure:A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society science book prize, longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize, and named a book of the year by The Economist and The Sunday Times.

What did you most enjoy about writing The Human Cosmos?

Discovering personal stories, from the artists of Lascaux cave to the star navigators of Tahiti to a married couple living just round the corner from me who pioneered astrophysics in their back garden. I love that all around the planet and all through history, humans have been connected by our view of the night sky.

Is there anything on Earth that you find unexpectedly beautiful?

Sunset in the city, though I’m not sure if that counts as ‘on Earth’! There’s a park near me with a view over the London skyline and the sheer ferocity of the colours always blows me away.

What are you most looking forward to in your personal life in the coming year?

Writing and travel. Hopefully expanding horizons again after a year exploring home’s four walls!

What's the most important thing we can learn from the pandemic?

That the world is connected, ultimately we all share a fate.

What activity are you most looking forward to enjoying after pandemic restrictions are lifted?

Hugging friends; live theatre and music.

What new social or technological development excites you the most?

Actually after a year of having to connect remotely I hope we’ll have an increased appetite to turn off our devices sometimes. To simply enjoy experiences —sitting with a friend, walking in nature or looking to the stars — without logging and quantifying them (counting steps, checking likes etc).

What idea, subject or field are you most looking forward to exploring in 2021?

I’m excited about continuing to explore the theme running through my last two books, The Human Cosmos and Cure, which is the tension between science and personal experience as ways of understanding the world, even the universe.

Find out more about Jo Marchant:


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