Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

  • COURTESY OF Eric Jay Dolin, PhD ’95
  • Eric Jay Dolin, PhD ’95

    Writing books that blend history and the natural world.

    For Eric Jay Dolin, the road to earning a PhD was tricky. He realized while working on his degree requirements and dissertation that he wanted to be a writer, not a professor. “My dissertation was on the Boston Harbor and the role of the courts in the cleanup,” he says. “But my draft of the first few chapters turned out to be a 500-page narrative history.”

    The realization didn’t come as a huge shock. From an early age, Dolin wrote about things he was passionate aboutincluding a 140-page paper in high school on the mollusks of Long Island Sound. He explored marine biology and environmental policy, getting his bachelor’s in biology and environmental studies from Brown University and his master’s in environmental management at Yale before earning his PhD in environmental policy and planning at MIT. Since then, he has published four books that focus on history and nature.

    The book that solidified his writing career was Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America. Selected as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Providence Journal, Leviathan was also chosen by Amazon.com’s editors as one of the 10 best history books of 2007. “Leviathan is my favorite because it’s the one that enabled me to make the jump to becoming a full-time writer,” says Dolin.

    This story is part of the January/February 2018 Issue of the MIT News magazine
    See the rest of the issue
    Subscribe

    His three other books explored the fur trade, China, and lighthouses; a book on pirates is due out in September 2018. “For almost every single one of my books I essentially knew little or nothing about the topic before I started,” he says. In the end, his books are geared toward people like him: generalists.

    “I’m not a trained writer, although I am a writer, and I’m not a trained historian, although people call me a historian because I write books about history,” he says. “I guess I’m a poster boy for pursuing your passions.”

    Dolin’s work has received many accolades, including the John Lyman Book Award, the James P. Hanlan Book Award, and gold, silver, and bronze medals from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. “I’m happy that my books have been well reviewed and won awards,” he says. “But the most heartening to me is the feedback from readers who really like my books.”

    Dolin and his wife, Jennifer, and their two children live in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

    Blockchain is changing how the world does business, whether you’re ready or not. Learn from the experts at Business of Blockchain 2019.

    Register now
    Next in MIT News
    Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
    • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

      6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

      10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

      Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

      Ad-free website experience

      The Download: newsletter delivered daily

    • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

      Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

      The Download: newsletter delivered daily

    • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

      See details+

      12-month subscription

      Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      The Download: newsletter delivered daily

    /3
    You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.

    MIT News = for alumni only.

    Are you an MIT alum?
    Sign in now to read all MIT alumni news and class notes— or to manage your magazine subscription.

    Sign in and read on