Shrewsbury School

Joint Darwin Society/Cambridge Society Lecture 2009

Monday 28 September 2009

This was the fifth annual lecture and previous speakers have included such eminent scientists as Lord Rees (OS) and Sir John Polkinghorne. This year’s speaker was Professor Robert Foley, Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Kings College. He was accompanied by his wife, Dr Marta Mirazon who is a Reader in Evolutionary Biology at Clare.

Professor Foley with studentsTheir passionate interest in the mysteries surrounding human origins was apparent from first meeting them, and it was a real pleasure to see how they both responded with delight to see and handle some of the original Darwin letters and books in our own ancient library before the lecture. It was also particularly appropriate that a Darwinian anthropologist should address us at Darwin’s old School in Darwin Year.

Professor Foley’s lecture began with Darwin’s Origin of Species and ended with the work of the Institute he and his wife co-founded, tracing the history of research into human origins and evolution from early wild (and biased) speculations, through the fossil record to genetic mapping. He emphasised the multidisciplinary nature of the work, the essential role of fieldwork and the amazing potential of modern genetics, and managed to take us all with him. He and Marta also found time to chat to a small number of upper sixth formers about preparation for Cambridge entrance.

It was a memorable event.

Steve Adams

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