Nita A. Farahany, Duke University

Rebecca Stott, University of East Anglia, UK

Monday, 22 September 2014 at 14:00 in the Large Operon, EMBL Heidelberg

Rebecca Stott, University of East Anglia, UK

The Long History of Evolution - what can we learn about science and originality?


The idea of evolution has been around in various forms for over two thousand years. In Darwin's Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists I have chronicled the lives of a small number of natural philosophers working in Baghdad, in ancient Greece, in Egypt and across Europe who worked to gather evidence for species mutation. My new book seeks to show the reasons why such bold claims and ideas flourished in particular places and at particular times and to show the ways in which those ideas became increasingly dangerous as the Catholic church extended its control and power. Is there something to be learned from studying this group of very unusual thinkers? Did they have anything in common: personality, working practices, life experience, attitudes, wealth, patronage? In this illustrated historically-wide-ranging lecture I will try to answer some of these questions to provide stimulus for a discussion about what it means to be bold and creative in contemporary scientific practice.


Rebecca Stott is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK) who writes about the history of science in both the form of historical fiction and narrative non-fiction. She is the author of the two non-fiction books Darwin and the Barnacle and Darwin's Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists and the two novels Ghostwalk and The Coral Thief. She is an affiliated scholar at the Dept of the History and Philosophy of Science Department at Cambridge and the co-director of the Writing and Science Project at UEA.