Welcome! This site is a bit like a business card - a brief introduction, with just a sampling of my writings and photography. I invite you to contact me for details, a formal resume, or additional clips.
I write professionally for national magazines about the physical sciences, technology and society, energy, history of astronomy, and adventure travel, including profiles of people and places present and past. I also photograph nature, weather, astronomical facilities, and energy infrastructure, and edited the text of brochures and reports for government agencies, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. Currently, I am devoting ~60% time to two major long-term (more than a decade) historical research projects: 19th-century U.S. astronomical observatories and instruments, and the nation's most geographically widespread - but largely forgotten - natural disaster, the Great Easter 1913 flood.
Since 2012, I have been a contributing editor for Sky & Telescope, and since 2002 have written more than two dozen feature articles for the engineering quarterly The Bent. From 2011 to mid-2015, I was Senior Writer for the University of California High-Performance AstroComputing Center (UC-HiPACC); simultaneously (2012-2016), on contract, I edited some two dozen reports, fact sheets, and policy briefs for the Union of Concerned Scientists on global security, energy, and climate change. Previously, I was an editor for Scientific American and senior editor for IEEE Spectrum magazines in New York City, and a communications specialist for the Operational Effectiveness Practice of McKinsey & Co. in Cleveland, Ohio. My master's degree (history of science/American intellectual history) is from New York University, and my bachelor's (history, with a physics minor) is from the University of California at Santa Cruz. I've taught scientific and technical writing at both companies and universities, including at the graduate level at the Polytechnic University of New York in Brooklyn. In March 2018, I created Trudy E Bell & Associates LLC, formalizing the DBA sole proprietorship I had been using since the 1990s for government and corporate work.
I've written, edited, or coauthored a dozen books for both adults and children on science, engineering, history, and bicycling. I was lead writer for the millennium book for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - Engineering Tomorrow: Today's Technology Experts Envision the Next Century, with Dave Dooling and Janie Fouke (IEEE Press, 2000) and author of the Smithsonian Science 101 volume Weather (Smithsonian/HarperCollins, 2007) and The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 (Arcadia Publishing, 2008). My children's books are four titles in astronomy for middle school students. In November 2012, I launched a research blog "'Our National Calamity': The Great Easter 1913 Flood" about the most widespread national disaster ever to afflict the U.S.; over the half-decade since, it has published 60+ articles featuring original research by meteorologists, flood control experts, and historians as well as by me, and attracted more than 150,000 views.
More than 500 of my feature articles have been published by national, regional, and specialized publications including Adventure Cyclist, Air & Space/Smithsonian, American Archaeology, Astronomy, IEEE Spectrum, Nature, Ohio, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Scientific American, Sky and Telescope, The Bent of Tau Beta Pi, and the popular Science @ NASA website. (Text continues below images and caption)
[CAPTION FOR IMAGES] First person is the best way to get a fresh angle on a story. Assignments have carried me to many observatories and university laboratories and historical archives, and most NASA centers (Ames, Dryden, Glenn, Goddard, Headquarters in DC, JPL, Johnson, Kennedy, and Plum Brook; have missed only Langley and Michaud). The banner photograph at the top of this web page shows me standing atop the 2.5-mile-long X-arm of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, Louisiana, while on assignment for Air & Space/Smithsonian. Small images: observing the August 21, 2017 total eclipse of the sun from near Lusk, Wyoming (see eighth report to S&T); pouring red-hot molten speculum metal into a mold for a 2-inch mirror a la Isaac Newton, August 2017; photos of just part of the Kern oilfields and spectacular wildflowers, both near Bakersfield, California, April 2017; standing in front of one of the giant woofers in the world's largest and loudest reverb acoustic testing chamber at NASA Plum Brook, June 2016; photographing desert gold wildflowers in Death Valley, March 2016; totally cool astronomical selfie capturing multiple reflections from the four surfaces of the 20-inch doublet lens of the 1914 Brashear refractor "Rachel" at Chabot Observatory in California and standing at the base of the 36-inch Clark refractor (1888) at Lick Observatory (once the largest telescope in the world) in 2015. Other assignments depicted have taken me to NASA's Kennedy Space Center; NASA Dryden (inside still-incomplete SOFIA); the Johnson Island archaeological dig near Sandusky, Ohio; LL Brashear optical labs in Pittsburgh; Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico; inside the 150-foot solar telescope at Mount Wilson Solar Observatory for the 2012 transit of Venus, and at the Great Dunes in Colorado for an Air & Space/Smithsonian article on lunar and Martian dust. Relevant to my 1913 flood research are two images, one of me seated overlooking Huffman Dam (one of the five innovative dry detention basins built in the Miami Valley north of Dayton, Ohio, for flood control) and the other of me standing before Lock 2 of the Ohio and Erie Canal through Akron, Ohio, a canal dynamited during the 1913 flood, summarily ending Ohio's canal era. Also shown are two formal author photos (with and without the books I've written). [Editors: contact me for publication-quality high-resolution versions.]
Articles of mine on astronomical topics, meteorological optics, and historical astronomers have also appeared in several academic and general encyclopedias. My 19 top journalism awards include the 2006 David N. Schramm Award of the American Astronomical Society. Twice I've received the Herbert C. Pollock Award of the Dudley Observatory to support research in the history of astronomy (2004, 2007) and was a Filson Fellow (2009) at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, to support historical research on the 1913 flood in Kentucky. In 2010, I received a career grant to study photography from the National Association of Science Writers. In Spring 2010 and again in Spring 2011, I was a Presidential Fellow at Case Western Reserve University. In May 2013, I was a Fellow at the Kalamazoo River Institute of the Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources.
On October 5, 2017, asteroid (323552) discovered by James W. Young at Table Mountain Observatory was named Trudybell 2004 TB in recognition of my career.
(Page updated April 24, 2018)