Professional Biographical Sketch: Melvin Konner, M.D, Ph.D.
Melvin (“Mel”) Konner is the author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1982, American Book Award nominee). A completely revised edition of The Tangled Wing was published by Holt/Times Books/W.H. Freeman in January, 2002.
His forthcoming book, Believers: Faith in Human Nature, will be published by Norton in Summer 2019. His last book was Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy (Norton, 2015). Other books include Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School (Viking/Elisabeth Sifton, 1987; front page review, New York Times Book Review; Georgia Author of the Year, Nonfiction, 1988); with S. Boyd Eaton and Marjorie Shostak, The Paleolithic Prescription: A Guide to Diet and Exercise and a Design for Living (Harper and Row, 1988; a pioneering book about the “Paleo” diet); Why the Reckless Survive, And Other Secrets of Human Nature (Viking Penguin, 1990); Childhood, the book for a major nine-hour public television series on which he appeared (Little, Brown, 1991); Medicine at the Crossroads: The Crisis in Health Care (Pantheon, 1992), for a seven-hour WNET/BBC series; Dear America: A Concerned Doctor Wants You to Know the Truth About Health Reform (Addison-Wesley, 1993; advocating a single-payer system); Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews (Viking Penguin 2003); The Jewish Body, in the Nextbook/Schocken “Jewish Encounters” book series (2009); and The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind (Harvard University Press, 2010).
Konner was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Russell Sage Foundation from 2000 to 2010. He has testified twice at U.S. Senate committee hearings relating to health care policy.
He was a regular contributor to the “Mind and Matter” column of The Wall Street Journal weekend Review section (every 4th week from November 2015 to July 2017). He published seven columns on The New York Times Op-Ed page, was a regular contributor to the “Body and Mind” column of The New York Times Magazine, and wrote the regular column “On Human Nature” for The Sciences, the prizewinning magazine of the New York Academy of Sciences. He has written for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The American Prospect, M.D., Psychology Today, Omni, Ms., and other newspapers and magazines, and has reviewed books for Science, Nature, Scientific American, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review. His scientific writings have appeared in Science, Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, Child Development, Human Nature, and other journals.
He has been a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Foundations’ Fund for Research in Psychiatry, and he received the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology in Media Award for 2004. His distinguished lectures include the 15th Annual Raymond D. Pruitt Lecture, The Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical School (1995), the McGovern Lecture in Medical Humanities, Yale University School of Medicine (1996), and the Abraham Flexner Lecture at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine (2009). He was named “Best Local Intellectual” in Creative Loafing’s annual “Best of Atlanta” edition for 2004.
He attended Brooklyn College (CUNY), holds Ph.D. and M.D. degrees from Harvard University, and is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. He spent two years among the !Kung San (Bushmen), and has taught at Harvard and then at Emory, for over 40 years. He teaches courses on human biology, human brain/behavior relations, biological approaches to childhood, human nature, medicine and society, and the anthropology of the Jews.
Konner was raised as an Orthodox Jew and, though he lost his faith at age 17, he is still keenly interested in Jewish culture and civilization. For more about this see his other website, “Jews and Others.”
He was married to Marjorie Shostak (May 11, 1945-October 6, 1996), author of the anthropological classic Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman and the mother of their three children, Susanna, Adam, and Sarah, now grown. He was a single father for a decade and has two grandchildren, among other rewards. His wife’s eight years with cancer stimulated an interest in that disease and in the psychology of terminal illness. He is remarried to Ann Cale Kruger, Ph.D. (a developmental psychologist), who added a third daughter, Logan Kruger, to their blended family, and has found happiness again after much suffering.