A journey through the virosphere

02 May 2024 18:30 - 19:30 The Royal Society Free Watch online

Join us for the Royal Society Croonian Prize Lecture 2024 given by Professor Edward C. Holmes FRS.

Viruses are everywhere, yet we know remarkably little about them. In this lecture Professor Holmes will show how recent technological developments in ‘metagenomics’ have enabled scientists to glimpse the total universe of viruses - the virosphere - for the first time. This new research shows that viruses are far older, more diverse and more complex than we previously realised, and that their reputation for always causing disease is perhaps misplaced.

Professor Holmes will discuss the major drivers of virus evolution, the role played by viruses within global ecosystems and how major events in animal evolution, such as the origin of the vertebrates, have shaped the diversity and evolution of the viruses they carry. He will show how advances in artificial intelligence are enabling scientists to describe the outer edges of the virosphere. Finally, Professor Holmes will discuss how new genomic technologies provide a powerful way to rapidly reveal the animal origins of infectious disease epidemics and track their spread through our species, including COVID-19.

About the award

The Croonian Medal and Lecture 2024 is awarded to Professor Edward Holmes for being a global authority on virus evolution and emergence, who played a key role in the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 and was the first to publicly release the genome sequence.

Edward (Eddie) Holmes is a National Health and Medical Research Council Leadership Fellow and Professor of Virology at the University of Sydney, Australia. Eddie received his undergraduate degree from the University of London (1986) and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge (1990). Following that, he performed postdoctoral research at the Universities of California (Davis), Edinburgh and Oxford. Between 1993-2004 he held various positions at the University of Oxford, including University Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology and Fellow of New College. Between 2005 and 2012 he was a Professor at the Pennsylvania State University, USA, before moving to Sydney. His research focuses on understanding the nature of global virus diversity – the virosphere – and the major mechanisms of virus evolution, with a special emphasis on revealing the ecology, evolution, and emergence of RNA viruses. In 2003 he was awarded the Scientific Medal by the Zoological Society of London. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2015 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2017. In 2021 he received the (Australian) Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

The Croonian Medal and Lecture is the premier lecture in the biological sciences. The lectureship was conceived by William Croone FRS, one of the original Fellows of the Society. Among the papers left on his death in 1684 were plans to endow two lectureships, one at the Royal Society and the other at the Royal College of Physicians. His widow later bequeathed the means to carry out the scheme. The lecture series began in 1738. The medal is of silver gilt, is awarded annually and is accompanied by a gift of £10,000. 

Attending the event

  • The event is free to join
  • Registration on Eventbrite is highly recommended
  • Live subtitles will be available in-person and virtually

Attending in person

Attending live online

  • The lecture will also be livestreamed here and on the Royal Society YouTube channel
  • You can take part in the live Q&A
  • This event will be recorded and will be available on YouTube soon after the event


For all enquiries, please contact awards@royalsociety.org.


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