04 Mar 2009

Darwin’s Five Bridges: The Open University Annual Lecture

Professor Richard Dawkins delivers the 2009 OU Lecture

Professor Richard Dawkins delivers the 2009 OU Lecture

“Digital Darwinism is here to stay,” evolutionary expert Professor Richard Dawkins will say at this year’s Open University Annual Lecture on Tuesday 17 March. Discussing the bridges of evolutionary theory and modern leaps into genetics, Professor Dawkins will be presenting his lecture at the Natural History Museum to an invited audience. The lecture, which is strictly by invitation only, will be available for the public to watch live over the internet, beginning at 7.30pm on 17 March at

Professor Dawkins’ lecture will be asking whether Darwin was the most revolutionary scientist ever, and examining the evolutionary theories of his contemporaries. Dawkins determines that there are four ‘bridges to evolutionary understanding’ which he will illustrate with four claimants to the discovery of natural selection: Edward Blyth, Patrick Matthew, Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin. Professor Dawkins will go on to identify the fifth bridge of evolutionary understanding as modern genetics – which he terms ‘digital Darwinism’.

Following Professor Dawkins’ lecture, a questions and answer session will be held with a panel of experts on Darwin, hosted by Jonathan Silvertown, Professor of Ecology at The Open University and editor of the book 99% Ape. The panel includes Jim Moore, Professor of the History of Science at The Open University and co-author of the book Darwin’s Sacred Cause; Dr Peter Skelton, Reader in Palaeobiology at The Open University and a contributing author to the book 99% Ape and Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London and author of the book Darwin’s Island: the Galapagos in the Garden of England.

Questions for the panel will be taken from the invited guests but can also be submitted in advance of the event. If you have a question to put to Professor Dawkins and the expert panel, please go to (questions can be submitted as of 5 March).

The lecture will become available for general viewing in a series of videos which will be available from early July 2009 at The Annual Lecture is being held in partnership with Darwin200 and is co-hosted by the Natural History Museum.

Editor’s Notes
The Open University’s Darwin Celebrations
The Open University is a proud partner in Darwin200, a national programme of events celebrating Charles Darwin’s life, his ideas and their impact around his 200th birthday on 12 February 2009.

About Professor Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins was the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair of he Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, and a Fellow of New College, Oxford, Retired. His bestselling books include The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, the Extended Phenotyp, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and The Ancestor’s Tale. Dawkins is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the 1987 Royal Society of Literature Award, the 1990 Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society, the 1994 Nakayama Prize, the 1997 International Cosmos Prize for Achievement in Human Science, the Kistler Prize in 2001, the Shakespeare Prize in 2005, the 2006 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, and he was named Author of the Year at the 2007 Galaxy British book Awards.

Expert Comment:
The Open University has a number of internationally-recognised experts on evolution, Darwin and his life available for comment:
• Professor Jonathan Silvertown, Professor of Ecology
• Dr Peter Skelton, Reader in Palaeobiology
• Dr David Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Biological Science
• Professor Jim Moore, Professor of the History of Science

Web resources:
Find out more about Darwin and his theory, related courses and see yourself as you might have looked millions of years ago with our fun face-morph tool Devolve Me. You can also enter the prize draw for a copy of the new book 99% Ape: How evolution adds up.
The site has information on Darwin exhibitions and events throughout the UK, links to related YouTube video clips, online chat forums discussing the social impact of his work, OU Worldwide merchandise, OpenLearn free taster units, details of OU courses you can study and much more.

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