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2014 Darwin Day Lecture: How to Make a Human, presented by Professor Alice Roberts

Last week the British Humanist Association (BHA) held its annual 12th annual Darwin Day lecture to celebrate the 205th birthday of Charles Darwin. This year’s full to capacity lecture was given by Professor Alice Roberts, the Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham on the topic How to make a human: Embryological and evolutionary development of a human.

Professor Roberts took the audience of a thousand people on a fascinating journey into the development of a human life combining embryology and evolutionary biology. The lecture touched on a wide range of subjects surrounding the early-developments of a human embryo.

In the lecture Professor Roberts spoke about early beliefs about embryology, the first scientific investigations into the subject, and the initial stages of embryonic development following conception. She then went on to explain how it is possible to discover so much about our evolutionary heritage through careful examination of the human embryo.

Professor Roberts’ lively and engaging talk was enhanced with a set of beautiful photos of early stage embryos, along with detailed diagrams which comprehensively illustrated her points (see Life in the Womb for more information).

Prior to Professor Robert’s event, the Chair of the Darwin Day lecture, Professor Richard Dawkins, paid tribute to Darwin’s genius and wondered why it had taken mankind so long to uncover the evolutionary process and commended Professor Roberts for her important role as Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham.

You can read more about the lecture on Storify here.


The Darwin Day Lecture is part of the BHA’s annual lecture programme, which also includes the Voltaire, Holyoake, Shelley and Bentham lectures.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.


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