Author Profile

Thor Hanson

Thor Hanson

Thor Hanson works as a conservation biologist and has studied trees and songbirds in Central America, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, Switzer Environmental Fellow, a member of the Human Ecosystems Study Group, and a peer reviewer for nine different scientific journals. 

In the 1990s, he served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, where he helped establish the mountain gorilla tourism program in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Today, Hanson lives with his wife and son on an island in Washington State.

Hanson's writing has appeared in both popular and scientific publications. His first book, The Impenetrable Forest: My Gorilla Years in Uganda, won the 2008 USA Book News Award for nature writing. Hanson's second book, Feathers, details the natural history of feathers and their usage over thousands of years and won the John Burroughs Medal, AAAS/Subaru Prize, and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award. Thor's latest book, The Triumph of Seeds, explores the origin of seeds and the dependency they have created in cultures around the world.

"Thor was really wonderful to listen to. The Q&A at the end really emphasized how interested the audience was in the topic, revealing a wide variety of inquires in the vase science of feathers. My favorite was a simple one. A teenager in the audience asked the question on everyone's mind, but no on was willing to say it, "What feather is longer than the Killer Whale?" Thor said, "You were listening!" and then proceeded to eloquently describe the selective breeding of fowl for long feathers."
-- Justin Wallace, North Cascades Institute

"We loved Thor's presentation! He is so engaging and entertaining. He had people laughing all the way through, and there was a good mix of science and amusing anecdotes for our audience. There was a lively Q&A and many people stayed to talk with Thor after the program."
-- Sally Lider, Puget Sound Bird Festival

"Everyone thought it was a wonderful talk. Obviously Thor is a remarkable storyteller, and made an interesting topic very accessible and engaging."
-- Amber Burnette, University of Minnesota Raptor Center

For more about Thor and his works, go to

Reviews of The Triumph of Seeds

The genius of Hanson's fascinating, inspiring and entertaining book stems from the fact that it is not how all kinds of things grow from seeds; it is about the seeds themselves. Hanson... takes one of the least-impressive-looking objects and reveals a life of elegance and wonder... Although he is a storyteller by nature, he also charms us with an infections enthusiasm. The reader feels that Hanson cannot wait to tell us what comes next... Like all good writers, he understands narrative -- that a book, at its best, is a story, and that this one is built by spinning stories within stories. They are fun, sometimes they are funny, and they are always fascinating and readable... [An] engaging book.
-- Mark Kurlansky, The New York Times Book Review

[An] engaging book... What makes The Triumph of Seeds more than a routine pop botany book is the way Mr. Hanson teases out the resonances between the ways that plants and humans use seeds... [A] lively and intelligent book.
-- Richard Mabey, The Wall Street Journal

Reviews of Feathers

Thor Hanson's new book takes on the intriguing subject of feathers. With infectious enthusiasm, he describes them, from their earliest known incarnations to their place in the modern world... Hanson's unpretentious style makes what is essentially an excellent scientific work into an enjoyable read for the ignorant and uninitiated... an illuminating study of an evolutionary marvel.
-- The Economist,

[Hanson] has produced a winning book about the extraordinary place of feathers in animal an human history... like all true birdwatchers, Mr. Hanson knows it isn't just the bird at the far end of the binoculars but the human being at the near end that matter, and he is writing as much about the human urge to understand, appreciate and appropriate the wild world as he is writing about feathers, which he calls, in his subtitle, a 'natural miracle,'... Feathers is an earthbound book, but this does not keep the author--or the reader--from looking up in wonder.
-- New York Times,

Videos featuring Thor Hanson

Literary Lions 2012: Thor Hanson Interview

Meeting Ruhondeza -- Excerpt from The Impenetrable Forest by Thor Hanson


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Thor Hanson