Annie Murphy Paul investigates how life in the womb shapes who we become.

Why you should listen

To what extent the conditions we encounter before birth influence our individual characteristics? It‘s the question at the center of fetal origins, a relatively new field of research that measures how the effects of influences outside the womb during pregnancy can shape the physical, mental and even emotional well-being of the developing baby for the rest of its life.

Science writer Annie Murphy Paul calls it a gray zone between nature and nurture in her book Origins, a history and study of this emerging field structured around a personal narrative -- Paul was pregnant with her second child at the time. What she finds suggests a far more dynamic nature between mother and fetus than typically acknowledged, and opens up the possibility that the time before birth is as crucial to human development as early childhood.

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What others say

“[Paul] combines impeccable science, extraordinary tenderness, and lyrical prose to produce a truly revolutionary chronicle of pregnancy.” — Sylvia Nasar

Annie Murphy Paul’s TED talk