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Fellows Directory

Lewis Wolpert

Lewis Wolpert

Professor Lewis Wolpert CBE FMedSci FRS


Elected: 1980


Lewis Wolpert is a developmental biologist and eminent advocate for the public understanding of science. Through research into body and limb patterning in developing organisms, Lewis formulated the theory of positional information — now a central concept that describes how cells do the right thing in the right place to morph correctly within the embryo.

Lewis studied morphogenesis and pattern development in marine invertebrates, hydra and chicks. He hypothesised that the physical location of cells in the embryo confers how they behave — for example which genes they switch on or off — and how they respond to external signals, giving rise to the correct formation and positioning of anatomy.

As an author and broadcaster, Lewis champions the value of science and he has helped to raise the profile of mental illness through a part-autobiographical book about depression. He served as Chair of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science and is a patron of the British Humanist Association.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Evolution
  • Health and human sciences
    • Medicine, clinical studies
  • Other
    • Public understanding of science


Developmental biology


  • Medawar Lecture

    On 'Is science dangerous?'.

  • Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture

    For his enormous contribution to the public understanding of science most notably through his Chairmanship of COPUS and his varied and wide-ranging television and radio programmes as well as his regular contributions to the national broadsheet newspapers.

  • Royal Medals

    For his research on morphogenesis and pattern formation that led to the concept of positional information in embryonic development.

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