Many people agree with Gilbert and Sullivan that Darwinian man, though well behaved is nothing but a monkey shaved. The recent discovery that we share around 95% of our DNA sequence with our closest relative suggests that there may be some truth in that statement. A closer look shows that almost all the physical changes that have taken place in our bodies since the split from our common ancestor seven million years ago involve loss - we are bald, with weak muscles, and lack characteristics found in our relatives. Most remarkable, we are the only creature unable to survive on raw food. Eatan uncooked diet and in the end you will die. Our guts have been so reduced and our digestive enzymes so enfeebled that we depend on an external stomach, a frying pan or microwave, to stay alive. In just one organ, the brain, we have gained in comparison to the chimpanzee; and its improvements are striking indeed.
This lecture will explore why mankind is much more than just another animal.
Professor Steve Jones is Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London and an author of several popular science books. He is one of the world's top six experts on the genetics of snails (and the other five agree) and has also studied the genetics and evolution of fruit flies and humans.
Professor Jones was born in 1944 in Aberystwyth, Wales, and has degrees from the University of Edinburgh and University of Chicago. Much of his academic research has been concerned with snails and the light their anatomy can shed on biodiversity and genetics. He is Professor of genetics at Galton Laboratory of University College London, and has had visiting posts at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the University of California at Davis, University of Botswana, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, and Flinders University in Adelaide.
Professor Jones is probably best known to the general public as a regular broadcaster and writer of popular books on scientific issues. He gave the 1991 Reith Lecture on "The Language of the Genes", has written and presented a Radio 3 series on science and the arts, "Blue Skies", and a TV series on human genetics, "In the Blood". He also appears on other radio and TV programmes, such as Today, Question Time, Late Review and Newsnight , and writes a regular column in The Daily Telegraph, "View from the Lab".
His many books include Genetics for Beginners (Icon Books), The Language of the Genes (HarperCollins), In The Blood (HarperCollins), Almost like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated (Anchor Books), Y: the Descent of Men (Little, Brown).
All of Professor Jones's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.