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Dr Adam Rutherford – Race, genes and scientific racism: the history and legacy of the invention of race.

July 21, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

(Open to University of Bristol staff and students only, registration closes at 11am 21/07/2022)

About this event:

This talk by Dr Adam Rutherford has been arranged by the Decolonising STEMM group.

Contemporary concepts of race have shallow historical roots, invented as they were during the European Age of Enlightenment, exploration and plunder. From the 17th century, philosophers, scientists and writers concocted taxonomies of our species, sometimes based on crude traits like pigmentation and bone morphology, and often just made up.

Science, and notably the new science of genetics did a good job of dismantling these racial categories in the 20th century, and showing that while race is very real because we perceive it, the folk taxonomies that everyone understands and uses have little basis in biology. However, in recent years, new techniques in genetics, sometimes poorly deployed, misunderstood or misrepresented, have given succour to those who wish to reinforce traditional racial categories, alongside common attempts to understand common observations such as in sporting success and cognitive abilities.

Joining the event:

This event will take place on Zoom, the joining link will be sent out a few days before the event.

Speaker bio:

Dr Adam Rutherford: Writer, Geneticist and Broadcaster

Adam’s latest book Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics was published in February 2022. This follows on from the hugely successful How To Argue With A Racist first published in February 2020 which was a Sunday Times Best Seller. His other recent books include The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us and A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. Adam’s first book, Creation (Penguin 2014), was about the origin of life on Earth, and the future of life in the era of genetic engineering, synthetic biology and spider-goats. Creation was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2014.

Adam’s background is in genetics and evolution. He did a PhD at the Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond St Hospital, studying the role of genes involved in the development of the eye. He worked at the science journal Nature, during which time he launched and presented the award-winning Nature Podcast, and produced and directed many short films, including a music video tribute to the retiring Space Shuttle.

He lectures extensively at UCL, where he has an Honorary Fellowship, and in public all around the world, including prestigious events such as the Douglas Adam’s Memorial Lecture, the British Humanist Association’s Darwin Day Lecture, The BFI, the Hay Festival, and the Cheltenham Literary and Science Festivals. He co-authored a study on the effects of video games on adolescents and violence in 2016.


Photo credit of Dr Adam Rutherford: Alde Eamonn McCabe


July 21, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm