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Why is life the way it is?

Prize lecture

Event video


18:30 - 19:30


The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Despite the explosion of genetic information in recent years, we have surprisingly little insight into the peculiar history of life on our planet.

Dr Nick Lane, Winner of the Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture 2016

Most genetic variation – natural experiments in evolution – is found in simple bacteria, yet they have barely changed over four billion years. No complex animals or plants are composed of bacterial cells. Why not? Why did complex cells only arise once in the history of life? And why are we complex beings so alike, with humans and mushrooms and trees all plotting for sex? 

Nick Lane will explore the importance of energy flow in shaping life from its very origins to the flamboyant complexity around us, and ask whether energy flow would direct evolution down a similar path on other planets.

Dr Nick Lane is a biochemist in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, and the author of four acclaimed books on evolution. Nick’s research deals with bioenergetics, focusing on the origin of life and the evolution of complex cells. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and leads the UCL Research Frontiers Origins of Life programme. He was awarded the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, the 2015 Biochemical Society Award for his outstanding contribution to molecular life sciences, and the 2016 Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for excellence in communicating science.

Attending the event

  • Free to attend
  • No registration required
  • Doors open from 18:00 and seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis
  • British Sign Language interpretation and live subtitles are available on request. Please let the events team know you plan to attend at least two weeks before the event.
  • Travel and accessibility information is available here.
  • Please note, this event will be filmed as part of a livestream broadcast 

This event is the 2016 Michael Faraday Prize lecture, previous winners have included Professor Katherine Willis, Professor Andrea Sella and Professor Brian Cox FRS.

For all enquiries, please contact:

Why is life the way it is?

Dr Nick Lane explores how the world has shaped life as we know it.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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