Jeff Wheelwright

After Yale (1969) and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (1971), I worked in public television and as an editor for the monthly Life magazine. Since 1989 I have been out on my own. Science writing has been my specialty, but gradually the study of history and religion has liberated me from science writing.

I produced two books, Degrees of Disaster, about the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1994), and The Irritable Heart, about the Persian Gulf War illnesses (2001). The latter was supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. I turned to human genetics for my next topic because of interest sparked by the Human Genome Project. Below you will find a selection of my magazine articles on genetics and other topics.

In 2007 I started the reporting for my new book. A breast-cancer mutation that is characteristic of Jews was discovered in Catholic Hispanos in New Mexico and the San Luis Valley of Colorado. The mutation proves that its carriers have Jewish ancestry, at least in part. In 2008 I published an article about this, The Secret of San Luis Valley, in Smithsonian magazine, and in 2009 I was awarded a J. S. Guggenheim Fellowship to support the writing of the book. The title of the book is The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA. It was published in January, 2012, by W. W. Norton.  My literary agent is Lisa Queen.

For the rest, I live with my wife on the Central Coast of California, where I sing in the choir of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and take pleasure in the outdoors.
 

Articles on genetics

Defining Jews, Defining a Nation: Can Genetics Save Israel?, about a genetics conference held in Herzliya, Israel, in June, 2011

"Genes, Race, and Medicine", a 3-part series in Discover magazine about DNA, health and ethnic identity — Human, Study Thyself, Finland's Fascinating Genes, and Native America's Alleles

Ginger's Gene, about a woman with a rare disorder and the race to capitalize on the gene responsible

Study the Clones First, about genetic insights gathered from identical twins

Bursting the Genome Bubble, a profile of Wayne Grody, a medical geneticist at UCLA

Testing Your Future, about the genetic screening of newborns

Bad Genes, Good Drugs, about the quest to uncover genetic differences relating to the risks of disease

Reading the Language of Our Ancestors, a profile of Victor McKusick, the father of medical genetics
 

Other articles

Tracking a Wolverine Through the American West, about a solo wolverine seemingly lost in the Sierra Nevada range.

The Gray Tsunami, about the aging of the world's population, with a look at the retirement community of Sun City, Arizona

Attack of the Flying Carp, about two species of Asian carp invading U.S. waterways

Captive Wilderness, about the research taking place inside a huge Idaho wilderness

Fire in the Sky, about the role of wildfires in maintaining Arizona's mountain forests

Squid Sensitivity, about a marine biologist entranced by the giant Humboldt squid

Sea Searchers, about a multinational project to track tuna and other marine life with electronic tags

Welcome to Yucca Mountain, about a computer model of the proposed nuclear waste repository in Nevada