Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE — Time magazine senior science writer Michael Lemonick will talk about how he separates the “cranks” from the geniuses when he delivers the 14th annual Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture on April 4.

The event, at 8 p.m. at the University Club, Neyland Drive at Kingston Pike, is being sponsored by the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. It is free and open to the public.

Lemonick’s topic of “Crank or Genius — How Does a Science Writer Tell the Difference?” is derived from something he must do frequently.

“I get e-mails and letters constantly from people who claim they’ve discovered something revolutionary — a way to produce cheap, limitless energy or why Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is wrong,” Lemonick said. “Usually it’s easy to tell that the writer is an utter crank.

“Yet history is full of examples where the scientific establishment actively ridiculed ideas — like continental drift, prions, the bacterial basis of ulcers, black holes, dark matter in the universe — all of which proved to be legitimate. How can science writers, and the public, tell the difference between a crank and a genius?”

Lemonick’s published works include more than 40 cover stories for Time on science, medicine and the environment. Before joining the magazine in 1988, he served as a senior editor and writer at Science Digest and the executive editor of Discover magazine. Lemonick’s stories also have appeared in Audubon and People magazines and the Washington Post.

In addition to his work in magazines, Lemonick is also the author of three books: “The Light at the Edge of the Universe,” “Other Worlds” and “Echo of the Big Bang.”

His professional honors include two American Association for the Advancement of Science–Westinghouse awards for distinguished magazine writing, an American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, an Overseas Press Club’s Whitman Bassow Award for international environmental reporting, the Dog Writers of America’s Maxwell Award and the National Arbor Day Foundation Media Award.

Lemonick holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard. He teaches science writing and astronomy at Princeton University.

The Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture series brings distinguished science communicators from around the world to campus to share their thoughts on science, society and the mass media.

The lectures are possible thanks to an endowment created by Tom Hill and Mary Frances Hill Holton in honor of their parents, Alfred and Julia Hill, founders of the Oak Ridger. The family’s endowment of the series was a gift to UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information.



Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,

Dr. Mark Littmann, (865) 974-8156;