Press Releases

Charles Darwin Anniversary Public Lecture – Surprisingly Well Adapted, Darwinism and Human Affairs in Darwin's 200th year – University of Reading

Release Date : 16 November 2009

In the year that marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the University of Reading is delighted to announce it's hosting a special free public lecture entitled 'Surprisingly Well Adapted, Darwinism and Human Affairs in Darwin's 200th year'.

From lovers of recent TV programmes 'Life' and 'Last Chance to See', to those who wish to explore evolution further, this talk is sure to fascinate and entertain. Attendees will also have the wonderful opportunity to view a first edition of the Origin of the Species.

The lecture takes place on Tuesday 24 November at the University's Whiteknights Campus and will be presented by Professor Mark Pagel. Mark is a leading evolutionary biologist based at the University of Reading and regularly appears on national radio and television to talk about his research and provide expert comment.

Earlier this year Mark, who is also Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopaedia of Evolution, wrote a special feature for the journal Nature to mark the 200th birthday of Darwin. In his essay Professor Pagel traced the controversial origins of Darwin's theory and the spread of its application beyond biology.

Professor Pagel said: "The theory of evolution has prospered in its first 150 years, now influencing disciplines from psychology, economics and anthropology to philosophy. This lecture will assess the state of the theory and our own species. I will examine where the theory stands today, on core questions such as whether all human traits are adaptations and arbitrary outcomes of the evolutionary process."

This special event is in addition to the University of Reading's hugely popular annual Public Lecture Series.

"All our public lectures are given by researchers eminent in their field and in a manner that is easily understood by all, said Laura Walsh, organiser of the Public Lecture Series. They offer a unique opportunity to learn about the cutting-edge research, teaching and people that make the University a world-class institute."

Surprisingly well adapted - Darwinism and Human Affairs in Darwin's 200th year, will be held on Tuesday 24 November at 7.30pm in the University's Business School Lecture Theatre, Whiteknights Campus. A drinks reception is being held prior to the talk, beginning at 6.45pm.

To register for this free event please email or telephone Laura Walsh on 0118 378 4313


For all University of Reading media enquiries please contact James Barr, Press Officer tel. 0118 378 7115 or email

Professor Mark Pagel is a leading evolutionary biologist from the University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences. This year Mark led a Reading research team that have discovered that 'I', 'we', 'who' and the numbers '1', '2' and '3' are amongst the oldest words, not only in English, but across all Indo-European languages. He also recently collaborated with Harvard University on research which showed long extinct sea reptiles not only had live births, but the sex of their offspring was genetically pre-determined.

Last year the journal Science published Professor Pagel's research that showed languages change and evolve in rapid bursts rather than in a steady pattern. This reflects a human ability to adjust languages at critical times of cultural evolution, such as during the emergence of new and rival groups.

  • The University of Reading is rated as one of the top 200 universities in the world (THE-QS World Rankings 2009).


  • The University of Reading is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 UK higher education institutions in securing research council grants worth nearly £10 million from EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, AHRC and BBSRC. In the RAE 2008, over 87% of the university's research was deemed to be of international standing. Areas of particular research strength recognised include meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, as well as law.


  • Standards of teaching are excellent - the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2009. 87% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.


  • The University is estimated to contribute £600 million to the local economy annually.


  • University of Reading is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.



Search Form

Main navigation