Combining her skills as a journalist with an advanced degree in physics, Marcia Bartusiak (pronounced Mar-sha Bar-too'-shack) has been covering the fields of astronomy and physics for four decades. The author of seven books, she is Professor of the Practice Emeritus in the Graduate Program in Science Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her latest books are Dispatches from Planet 3, an essay collection for the armchair astronomer, a revised edition of Einstein's Unfinished Symphony, her award-winning history of gravitational-wave astronomy and its first detections, and Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled on by Hawking Became Loved.
Bartusiak is also the author of Thursday's Universe, a layman's guide to the frontiers of astrophysics and cosmology, and Through a Universe Darkly, a history of astronomers' centuries-long quest to discover the universe's composition. Both were named notable science books by The New York Times. More recently published are The Day We Found the Universe, a narrative saga of the birth of modern cosmology and the 2010 winner of the History of Science Society's Davis Prize, and Archives of the Universe, a history of the major discoveries in astronomy told through 100 of the original scientific publications. She was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has won the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Prize three times, and also received the AIP's prestigious Gemant Award for "significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics."
Graduating in 1971 with a degree in communications from American University in Washington, D.C., Bartusiak first spent four years as a TV reporter and anchorwoman in Norfolk, Virginia. Assignments at the nearby NASA Langley Research Center sparked a love for science news, which encouraged her to enter Old Dominion University for a master's degree in physics. Her research involved the effects of radiation on optical materials sent into space as parts of orbiting astronomical observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer.
Starting her science-writing career as an intern at Science News and then as a charter member of Discover's writing staff, she continues to write about astronomy and physics in a variety of national publications. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Astronomy, Science, Popular Science, Sky & Telescope, World Book Encyclopedia, Smithsonian, and Technology Review. For many years a contributing editor at Discover, she is now on the editorial advisory board of Astronomy magazine. She also reviews science books for The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Bartusiak lives with her husband, mathematician Steve Lowe, in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
Awards and Honors
2022 Sigma Xi Scientific Society Distinguished Lectureship, 2022-23
2019 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for Dispatches from Planet 3
2019 Dispatches from Planet 3, Outstanding Academic Title, American Library Association
2019 Novim Award for communicating complex science topics in innovative and engaging ways
2017 Einstein's Unfinished Symphony included on 2017 Best Book List by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
2016 Black Hole, finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Science Writing Prize
2015 American Publishers Prose Award, Honorable Mention in the Cosmology & Astronomy category for Black Hole
2015 Black Hole longlisted for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
2010 The Day We Found the Universe awarded the History of Science Society's Davis Prize for best history-of-science book
for a general audience
2010 Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the science category for The Day We Found the Universe
2010 Klumpke-Roberts Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding contributions to the public understanding
and appreciation of astronomy
2009 Distinguished Alumni Award, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
2008 Elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “exceptionally clear communication
of the rich history, the intricate nature, and the modern practice of astronomy to the public at large”
2008 MIT Infinite Mile Award for Outstanding Service and Innovative Teaching
2006 American Institute of Physics Gemant Award for "significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics"
2001 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony
2000 New York Times Notable Book for Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony
2000 Washington Post Book World Rave for Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony
2000 Library Journal “Best Science-Technology Book 2000” for Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony
1994 MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow
1993 New York Times Notable Book for Through a Universe Darkly
1987 Finalist, NASA Journalist-in-Space competition
1986 An Astronomy Book of the Year, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, for Thursday’s Universe
1986 New York Times Notable Book for Thursday’s Universe
1982 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for “The Ultimate Timepiece,” Discover magazine
1979 University Fellow, Boston University
1979 Elected to Sigma Xi Honor Society for Scientific Research