Adrienne Mayor was born in Little Egypt, southern Illinois, and grew up in harshly beautiful South Dakota. The Bookmobile at Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School was a godsend! Although a highly distracted college student in the late 60s and 70s, Mayor pursued independent studies at the University of Minnesota in the history of science, mythology, and classics, struggling for 10 years to obtain a BA while working full time in the Post Office. She first began collecting strange legends and eidetic episodes in classical myths to illustrate in her artwork. She studied printmaking, displaying and selling etchings in Washington, DC; Ithaca, NY; and Montana.
Beginning in 1977, Mayor worked as a freelance copyeditor for trade and university presses while continuing to gather research on ancient Greek and Roman folklore. While living in Athens in 1978-79, she began to publish her first articles, on ghosts in antiquity, ancient fossil collecting, dolphins, winds, tortoises, and other arcane topics in the Athenian, Greece's English-language magazine. In Bozeman, Montana, from 1980 to 1990, Mayor continued freelance editing and writing articles (on the history of tattoos, origin of the Griffin, dire effects of poison honey, giants, monsters, unconventional warfare) in popular magazines and scholarly journals, in between editing projects and summers in Greece and Turkey. In 1990, she and her husband, the ancient historian Josiah Ober, moved to Princeton, NJ. Firestone Library was another godsend, luring Mayor to concentrate full time on her own writing.
Mayor's first book, "The First Fossil Hunters" appeared in 2000. Now known as an independent folklorist and historian of science, Mayor investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. Her research looks at ancient "folk science" precursors, alternatives, and parallels to modern scientific methods. Mayor's two books on pre-Darwinian fossil traditions in classical antiquity and in Native America opened up a new field within geomythology, and her book on the origins of biological weapons uncovered surprisingly ancient roots of biochemical warfare. Her work has been featured on NPR and BBC, the History Channel, and other popular media, most recently in the New York Times and National Geographic; her books are translated into Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Polish, and modern Greek. The History Channel's oft-repeated show, "Ancient Monster Hunters," is based on Mayor's first book. She is particularly delighted when popular novelists draw on her articles and books for inspiration (for example, Helen of Troy and Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George; The Gryphon's Skull by H. Turteltraub; Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom; and Brad Thor's thriller Blowback).
Mayor's latest book, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (2009) is the first full biography in 50 years of the extraordinary King Mithridates the Great of Pontus, scourge of ancient Rome and the world's first experimental toxicologist. The Poison King was a National Book Award finalist in 2009. In 2007, Mayor received an honorary doctorate from Montana State University. Since 2006, she has been a Visiting Scholar in Classics and History of Science at Stanford University. Mayor is currently researching her next book, about the ancient women warriors known as Amazons, under contract with Princeton University Press.
Amazonia: The Legendary Empire of Women Warriors (Princeton University Press, 2012)
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Princeton University Press
Wounded Knee District School Foundation Ogalala Lakota College, www.olc.edu
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