Phil Hilts


Director, Knight Science Journalism at MIT

Phil Hilts became director of the Knight Fellowships upon the retirement in June 2008 of Boyce Rensberger. The Knight Fellowships program was founded in 1983 by Victor K. McElheny.

Philip J. Hilts, the author of six books and a prize-winning health and science reporter for both The New York Times and The Washington Post, has been named the third director of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships. He will succeed Boyce Rensberger, who retires this summer after ten years in the job.

Hilts, whose journalism career began in 1968, was the Times reporter who broke the story of the tobacco industry’s 40-year cover-up of its own research showing that tobacco was harmful and addictive. His most recent book, Rx for Survival: Why We Must Rise to the Global Health Challenge, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

During some 20 years at the Times and the Post and in more than 300 front page stories, Hilts has reported from such disparate locales as a mile deep in the Pacific Ocean while aboard the submersible Alvin, and a Zambian village where a traditional healer was “curing” AIDS. His articles on the inaccuracy of hypnosis-induced court testimony led to four men being freed from jail.

Hilts is also the author of Protecting America’s Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation. The only history of the Food and Drug Administration, this book tells the story of the fight over using science as the basis of public policy. It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Hilts has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and twice a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is also a commentator on health and science issues for National Public Radio.