PEN America Literary Awards PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

The PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award celebrates writing that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000.

All winners and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining PEN’s award seal, please write to

Featured Honoree: Lindsey Fitzharris, 2018 Winner

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris

Lindsey Fitzharris

The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris (Scientific America/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Scientific American Ι Indiebound Ι Amazon

Judges: Carl Hart, Deanna Fei, Luke Dittrich

From the judges’ citation: “When Joseph Lister began his career as a surgeon in Victorian England, colleagues wore aprons caked with old blood and rarely washed their knives between procedures. Infections ran rampant, and hospitals were often just way stations to the morgue. In The Butchering Art, Lindsey Fitzharris provides a clear-eyed view over Lister’s shoulder, and lets us watch as he progresses toward the revolutionary idea that invisible germs could be lethal, and that killing those germs might save countless lives. Fitzharris is a brilliant narrator of visceral operating-room scenes, but her account of the medical community’s prolonged and contentious resistance to Lister is just as compelling. This important and compulsively readable book is a reminder that scientific advances face strong headwinds, and that even the best ideas need fierce champions.”