77 North Washington Street--June 1997

Chandler Burr

CHANDLER Burr, the author of this month's cover story, "The AIDS Exception: Privacy vs. Public Health," could scarcely have anticipated a decade ago, when he was a graduate student in international economics, that his journalistic interests would take him in the direction that they have. His first submission to The Atlantic Monthly (flagged for attention by James Fallows, then our Washington editor, who had just returned from Asia) was a long, tortuous, strangely riveting account, which we were ultimately unable to use, of the obstacles that face a person trying to buy an American car in Japan. Burr eventually came back to us with a subject that engaged both his deep personal interest and his indefatigable curiosity. The article that resulted, "Homosexuality and Biology," looked at new scientific thinking about the origins of sexual orientation; it was The Atlantic's cover story in March of 1993. From that article grew Burr's book A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation (1996), whose "plain-spoken and matter-of-fact" reporting was singled out by the Los Angeles Times as being all the more remarkable in that the topic is often plagued by hype and controversy.

Chandler Burr, thirty-three, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, and received his undergraduate degree from Principia College after academic forays in China, France, and Italy. In 1990 he received a masters degree in international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Wherever he has found himself, Burr has maintained a parallel life as a writer. His reporting has been published in many national magazines, and his play Exquisite, which addresses questions of Japanese and American cultural and economic identity, was nominated in 1992 for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play.

Burr speaks on college campuses around the country about biological science, politics, and pertinent aspects of the law (these sessions have been described as "spirited"), and he is currently writing a book about civil rights and constitutional law. His article in this issue touches on all these areas, and takes a point of view that runs counter to that of the AIDS establishment. Burr argues that concerns about privacy have unreasonably been allowed to hamper the fight against a deadly and infectious disease. Some will angrily demur. We would argue that with lives at stake, scrutinizing orthodoxy from time to time is simple prudence. --THE EDITORS

Photograph: Curtis Kelley