David Epstein: Biography highlights

Best-selling author and science writer David Epstein has made it his mission to uncover the keys to achieving high performance in any domain, and to debunk popular myths along the way. His top 10 New York Times best-seller, The Sports Gene, took readers inside the surprising science of extraordinary athletic performance.

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Full biography of David Epstein

David Epstein’s Background

David Epstein is the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and of the top 10 New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene, which has been translated in 21 languages. (To his surprise, it was purchased not only by his sister but also by President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.)

He was previously a science and investigative reporter at ProPublica, and prior to that a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, where he co-authored the story that revealed Yankee’s third baseman Alex Rodriguez had used steroids. His writing has been honoured by an array of organizations, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, to the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Center on Disability and Journalism, and has been included in the Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology.

His story “Following the Trail of Broken Hearts,” on sudden cardiac death in athletes, was chosen as one of the top 100 stories of the last 100 years by Columbia Journalism alumni.

David has given talks about performance science and the uses (and misuses) of data on five continents; his TED Talk has been viewed 7 million times and was shared by Bill Gates. Three of his stories have been optioned for films: a Sports Illustrated story on the only living Olympian to have survived a concentration camp; an Atlantic/ProPublica piece detailing the DEA’s fraught pursuit of Chapo Guzman’s rivals; and a 2016 “This American Life” episode he wrote and narrated about a woman with two rare diseases who shares a mutant gene with an Olympic medalist.

David has master’s degrees in environmental science and journalism and is reasonably sure he’s the only person to have co-authored a paper in the journal of Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research while a writer at Sports Illustrated. (Like many of the characters in Range, he has benefitted from a winding career.) He has worked as an ecology researcher in the Arctic, studied geology and astronomy while residing in the Sonoran Desert, and blithely signed up to work on the D-deck of a seismic research vessel shortly after it had been attacked by pirates.

David enjoys volunteering with the Pat Tillman Foundation and Classroom Champions. An avid runner, he was a Columbia University record holder and twice NCAA All-East as an 800-meter runner.


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1/4 videos
Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? | David Epstein
Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? | David Epstein
SSAC19: Making the Modern Athlete: A Conversation with David Epstein and Malcolm Gladwell
SSAC19: Making the Modern Athlete: A Conversation with David Epstein and Malcolm Gladwell
Web Summit 2014, Day 2. Sports Stage. Tony Hawk in conversation with David Epstein
Web Summit 2014, Day 2. Sports Stage. Tony Hawk in conversation with David Epstein
Art of Manliness Podcast #127: The Sports Gene With David Epstein
Art of Manliness Podcast #127: The Sports Gene With David Epstein

“For reasons I cannot explain, David Epstein manages to make me thoroughly enjoy the experience of being told that everything I thought about something was wrong. I loved Range.”

Malcolm Gladwell

“Range is an urgent and important book, an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.”

Daniel H. Pink
Arthroscopy Association of North America

“Your message was perfect. Interestingly, the feedback has been as overwhelmingly positive about the science that you provided in addition to the message. Our group thought you had hand designed the presentation for us as sports scientists, and it resonated deeply. The way you approached the book as well as how you presented what you found, combines imagination with well-grounded data and makes your message beyond entertaining…exactly what we were looking for. Thanks again, and look forward to seeing what you get us into next!”

Pat Tillman Foundation

“David’s presentation made a huge impact at our annual leadership summit. His flawless, enthralling presentation on late specialization was a complete package of fascinating data and illustrations. Speaking to an audience of elite military veterans studying medicine, business, public policy, mental health, law, and the arts, his message was universally applicable to those with unique skill sets who may feel momentarily ‘behind’ in a new career. He was the highest rated speaker for the second year in a row by our attendees!”

“Epstein…will leave you questioning the next steps in your career—and the way you raise your children.”

Adam Grant
University of Pittsburgh Johnstown

“What an awakening and powerful commencement address to the UPJ class of 2019…I raised my children on the Gallup Philosophy and not only did you expand on it as it relates to today, you confirmed to them I’m an awesome mother!”

AMSSM Annual Meeting

We were fortunate to have David Epstein, our presidential keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine. He was phenomenal. He was very accommodating and gave an outstanding, informed and entertaining lecture. A few examples of the overwhelmingly positive comments from the audience follow: ‘One of the best speakers we’ve ever had;’ ‘Best session of the day;’ ‘Certainly enjoyed this discussion.’ ‘Best talk of the conference, hands down;’ ‘One of the best lectures I have ever heard. Fascinating, well researched, and funny.'”

Program Planning Committee Chair
O'Reilly Media

“David Epstein’s keynote address was a huge hit with the Strata audience. Through the combination of humor and skillful storytelling, David was able to make sports science come alive for our diverse crowd of data enthusiasts. The most successful keynotes require excellent pacing, great content, and the ability to draw people in and keep them engaged. David did all three successfully at Strata Santa Clara. Based on the comments we’ve received, his presentations were definitely crowd favorites at this year’s conference.”

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