Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books crowns first ever solo female winner

25 September 2015

In a groundbreaking announcement, the Royal Society has revealed Gaia Vince as the winner of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2015, for Adventures in the Anthropocene, a close-up look at the most pressing ecological issues facing the planet, and the people who are using science to solve them.

Vince has now become the first woman to win the prize as a sole author in the Prize’s 28-year history – Pat Shipman co-authored winning book The Wisdom of Bones with Alan Walker in 1997.

In a unanimous decision from the judging panel, Vince emerged victorious from a strong shortlist, including bestsellers Alex Through the Looking-Glass by Alex Bellos and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam, to take home the £25,000 prize. The ceremony was hosted by Professor Brian Cox OBE, currently the Royal Society’s Professor of Public Engagement in Science.

Adventures in the Anthropocene explores how the Earth has been drastically affected by humans, but also the ways in which science and engineering are providing solutions, from islands built out of rubbish to artificial glaciers. Vince’s research from around the world illustrates the increasingly popular argument that, due to human activity over just a couple of centuries, we have altered the planet so much that our geological period (the most familiar, to many, the Jurassic) has rapidly changed. Having left the 12,000-year-long Holocene epoch we are entering into a distinctly new age, the Anthropocene. 

Chair of judges Ian Stewart said: “This is an underreported area of science and a truly original story. We were all humbled by Vince’s commitment to this book – she quit her job and spent 800 days on the global road to gather her evidence. She has captured the issue of the day in a way that is ultimately empowering without ever being complacent.  We are very proud to recognise this ambitious and essential work.” 

Fellow judge and award-winning novelist Sarah Waters called the book “an inspiring testament to human ingenuity.”

In his speech, Professor Cox urged everyone to read the shortlisted titles, saying: “Britain is facing an urgent scientific illiteracy problem, but I believe that popular science books can begin to bridge this gap. I urge everyone in the country to pick up at least one of these six breathtakingly entertaining and mind-expanding books and gain a fresh appreciation for the stories that science can tell.”

Founded in 1988 (and previously known under different banners including the Aventis Prize and Rhône-Poulenc Prize), the Prize celebrates outstanding popular science books from around the world and is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience. Over the decades it has championed writers such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould and Bill Bryson.