Joel Swerdlow was born in Washington, D.C., and spent part of his childhood in Burma. He completed undergraduate work at Syracuse University in political science and received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1974. Early in his career Swerdlow covered the Watergate trial and the White House for National Public Radio. He has published articles in many American newspapers and periodicals, including Harpers, Wilson Quarterly, and Rolling Stone. Swerdlow is the author or editor of eight books. In May 1988 NBC produced a movie based on his book To Heal a Nation: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Swerdlows recent work in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine includes The Power of Writing, in August 1999, Making Sense of the Millennium, in January 1998, New Yorks Chinatown, in August 1998, and Vincent van Gogh: Lullaby in Color, in October 1997. His December 1994 story, Americas Poet: Walt Whitman, was a 1994 National Magazine Award finalist. Swerdlow also explored the millennium for nationalgeographic.com. His latest book, Natures Medicine: Plants That Heal, will be published soon by National Geographic Books. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and their two sons.