Alice Dreger

Historian, sex researcher, and writer
Historian, sex researcher, and writer

Alice Dreger is an historian of medicine and science, a sex researcher, a mainstream writer, and an (im)patient advocate. An award-winning scholar and writer, Dreger’s latest major work is Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, which argues that the pursuit of evidence is the most important ethical imperative of our time. Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and published by Penguin Press, the book has been praised in many reviews, including in The New Yorker, Nature, Science, Forbes, New York Magazine, and Salon. It was named an “Editor’s Choice” by The New York Times Book Review, where Dreger was labeled “a sharp, disruptive scholar.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has called her a “star scholar” and, in a feature on her career, described Dreger’s writing as “reliably funny and passionate and vulnerable.”

Dreger earned her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University in 1995. She has embodied the idea of the public intellectual, simultaneously publishing widely-cited major original work in scholarly journals and high-visibility essays in the mainstream press. She has served as a regular writer for the health sections of The Atlantic and Pacific Standard and for the blog of Psychology Today, and her op-eds have appeared in numerous other venues, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, WIRED, Slate, The LA Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and New Statesman. Her live-tweeting of her son’s sex ed class in April, 2015, sparked an international discussion of abstinence-based education and led to her recently publishing The Talk: Helping Your Kids Navigate Sex in the Real World, a short guidebook for parents commissioned by Amazon Kindle Singles.

Besides functioning as an historian and writer, in the medical world Dreger has served as a patient advocate and consultant to pediatric specialists undertaking clinical reform, particularly in the treatment of children born with norm-challenging body types, including intersex, conjoined twinning, facial anomalies, and short stature. Former chair of the Intersex Society of North America, she also served as an ethics consultant to an NIH-funded Translational Research Network on pediatric intersex care and co-edited a medical education guide on LGBT and Differences of Sex Development (DSD) for the Association of American Medical Colleges. She has been on the faculty of several major universities, including most recently (2005-2015) as a full professor in Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. For Cambridge University Press, she is currently co-editing with Françoise Baylis a collection of first-person stories called Bioethics in Action.

Dreger’s TEDx lecture, “Is Anatomy Destiny,” has been viewed over one million times, and she has appeared as a guest expert on hundreds of media programs, including on Oprah, Savage Love, Good Morning America, and NPR, and in many original documentaries, including for A&E, ABC, Discovery, PBS, and HBO. A native of New York, she now lives in East Lansing, Michigan.