Jennifer Hecht

On this date in 1965, Jennifer Michael Hecht was born in New York, N.Y. She earned a B.A. in history from Adelphi University in New York in 1987, and a Ph.D. in the history of science and European cultural history in 1995 from Columbia University. She is an author and poet whose works of poetry include The Next Ancient World (2001), for which she was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s 2002 Norma Farber First Book Award. Hecht is most famous for her historical and philosophical books: Doubt: A History (2003); The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France (2003), which won the 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society; and The Happiness Myth (2007). She has worked as a professor in history at Mannes College (1993–1994) an associate professor in history at Nassau Community College (1994–2006), and taught creative writing at New York University in 2006. She is currently a professor at Columbia University’s MFA program and The New School’s graduate writing program, as well as a journalist who writes book reviews for The New York Times and the Washington Post. She and her husband, John, have two children.

“I’m sort of what I’ll now call a Reagan atheist—came in real early. I was still a pretty young person,” Hecht said during her speech at FFRF’s 32nd annual convention. In her book Doubt: A History (2003), Hecht outlines the extensive history of atheism and religious doubt. She wrote: “Doubters have been remarkably productive, for the obvious reason that they have a tendency toward investigation and, also, are often drawn to invest their own days with meaning.” Hecht is a member of FFRF’s Honorary Board and received a Freethought Heroine Award from FFRF on Nov. 7, 2009.

“Almost all the great poets have conversations in their poetry about doubting God, and even go all the way to dismissing. It’s such a strong tradition that it’s almost amazing that we’ve missed it.”

—Jennifer Hecht, Nov. 7, 2009 speech at FFRF’s 32nd annual convention.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor; Photo in the Public Domain

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