Siobhan Roberts - photo by Christopher Wahl
Siobhan Roberts is a Canadian author and science journalist. She is currently the inaugural Journalist-in-Residence at the Simons Laufer Mathematical Sciences Institute in Berkeley.
Roberts is a regular contributor to the New York Times. In 2020, she wrote eight articles addressing the coronavirus pandemic for NYT Science Times (including “Embracing the Uncertainties,” “This is the Future of the Pandemic,” “How to Think Like an Epidemiologist,” and “The Swiss Cheese Model of Pandemic Defense”)—a contribution to the Times’s 2021 public service Pulitzer Prize for pandemic coverage. In 2021, Roberts wrote a profile of the applied mathematician Ingrid Daubechies for The New York Times Magazine.
Her latest book is Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway (Bloomsbury, 2015). While writing the Conway biography, she was a frequent Director’s Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; and a Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.
New editions of Genius at Play and The Man Who Saved Geometry: The Multidimenstional Mind of Donald Coxeter (Roberts’s first book; Bloomsbury, 2006) are to be published by Princeton University Press in fall 2024.
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Roberts has contributed to QuantaThe New Yorker, The Mathematical Intelligencer, MIT Technology Review, The WalrusThe Globe and MailThe Toronto StarThe National Post MaisonneuveCanadian Geographic, and The Guardian, among other publications.
In 2017 she won the JPBM Communications Award for Expository and Popular Books, bestowed by the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America. Genius at Play was longlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.
Her previous books are Wind Wizard: Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering (Princeton University Press, 2012), winner of the CSCE W. Gordon Plewes History Award; and King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry (Bloomsbury, 2006), winner of the Mathematical Association of America’s 2009 Euler Prize for expanding the public’s view of mathematics. She also wrote and produced a documentary film about Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry, for TVOntario’s The View From Here.
She has won a number of National Magazine Awards—writing about “the river of dust” at the National Archives in Ottawa; that time the FBI came calling at Winnipeg’s level-4 National Microbiology Laboratory; how crisis and paradox combine to produce revolutionary physics at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute (or so physicists hoped); and Donald Coxeter’s final journey, to a geometry conference in Budapest at the age of ninety-three.
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Siobhan arrived at journalism via: working in a bakery; and as a barista; managing a pick-your-own strawberry patch in Prince Edward County (while getting a lot of reading done, especially on rainy days); spending two summers scraping and priming and painting century homes for College Pro Painters; followed by a couple of years as a museum curatorial assistant, accessioning frightful anatomical wax medical models; and a couple more years in documentary films as a researcher and production/post-production coordinator on features and series such as Punch Like a Girl by Red Queen Productions.