77 North Washington Street

Charles C. Mann

"I WAS the sort of kid," says Charles C. Mann, the author of this month's cover story on the future of intellectual property, "who has a new lifelong ambition every two months. At various times I wanted to become a paleontologist, a filmmaker, a historian, an astrophysicist, a theoretical ecologist, a professional balloonist, and an anthropologist." He pursued none of these paths to the end, and yet in his career as a writer he has walked down all of them. He says of his own niche in journalism, "It's like grad school, except that you always get to talk to the world's best people on the subject."

On assignment for The Atlantic Monthly, Mann has spoken with the world's best people on an extraordinarily diverse range of subjects. His first piece for the magazine, "How the Universe Works" (August, 1984), written with Robert P. Crease, was built around a profile of the physicist Sheldon Glashow. He has gone on to write major articles about the search for life on other planets (November, 1984), the economic ideas of Lester C. Thurow (January, 1990), the intricacies of endangered-species protection (January, 1992), and the dilemma posed by prostate-cancer testing (November, 1993). Mann's books, several of which have grown out of Atlantic cover stories, include The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics (1986), written with Robert P. Crease, and Noah's Choice: The Future of Endangered Species (1995), written with Mark L. Plummer. Mann also prepared the text for Peter Menzel's best-selling photographic project (1994). He has been a contributing editor of this magazine since December of 1991.

Mann's 1990 Atlantic profile of New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who at the time was considered a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, is still remembered fondly by the magazine's staff for some of the fact-checking materials Mann provided. The quotations from Cuomo actually used in the article necessarily amounted to only a small fraction of many hours' worth of conversations at various offices, softball games, and political functions, interrupted by scores of phone calls about political and state business. The complete transcripts revealed a cinéma vérité Cuomo, maddening and formidable, and passed quickly up and down the corridors. Cuomo never had the chance to install a secret Oval Office taping system. Too bad.


Photograph by Peter Menzel

The Atlantic Monthly; September 1998; 77 North Washington Street; Volume 282, No. 13; page 8.