Award-winning biochemist delivers annual Eckersley Lecture

Posted on 18th February 2020

Professor Nick Lane of University College London (UCL) delivered the annual science Eckersley Lecture to a packed Bedales Theatre on 11 February.

An award-winning author and biochemist, Professor Lane is best known for his critically acclaimed books, including Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, which was awarded the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Books, The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is? and Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World.

Professor Lane’s lecture – Why is life the way it is? – gave Bedales students, staff and members of the local community the opportunity to hear about research into the most fundamental areas of evolutionary biology. In his talk, Professor Lane acknowledged that despite the Earth teeming with life, we do not know why complex life is the way it is, or how it first began. Reframing evolutionary history, he put forward a solution to conundrums that have previously left generations of scientists puzzled.

Bedales Head of Science Richard Sinclair said: “Having read and recommended Nick Lane’s books over so many years, I was delighted when he accepted my invitation to deliver the Eckersley lecture. He asks questions about the most intriguing areas of evolution and in his talk he gave us all an insight into the past 50 years of scientific research that is shedding light on how and why life developed as it did. It was another really memorable Eckersley lecture and I am very grateful to Nick Lane for this, and for the time he spent with students beforehand.”

The Eckersley Lecture is named after brothers and former Bedales students, Peter and Thomas Eckersley. Peter Eckersley was the former chief engineer at the BBC and his brother Thomas was a theoretical research engineer; they both attended Bedales during the early 1900s. Professor Sir Lawrence Bragg gave the first Eckersley Lecture at Bedales in 1966. The lecture series boasts three Nobel Prize winners and 10 Knights and Dames amongst its speakers and is a highlight in the school’s Science programme.

Professor Lane’s research as a Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London focuses on three major transitions in evolution: the origin of life itself; the origin of the eukaryotic cell; and the evolution of fundamental traits shared by all eukaryotic cells, notably sex, sexes, speciation and senescence.