A video image of Ridley at Thinking Digital 2009
|Born||Matthew White Ridley
7 February 1958
|Education||BA, DPhil (Oxon)|
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
|Organization||Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences
|Known for||Evolutionary view of human society|
|Notable work(s)||The Red Queen (1994), Genome (1999) and The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010)|
Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley, FRSL, FMedSci, DL (born 7 February 1958), known commonly as Matt Ridley, is a British scientist, journalist, and popular author and a member of the House of Lords.
Ridley has written several science books including The Red Queen (1994), Genome (1999) and The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010). In 2011, he won the Hayek Prize, which "honors the book published within the past two years that best reflects Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty." Ridley also gave the Angus Millar Lecture on "scientific heresy" at the RSA in 2011. He was recently elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and won the Julian Simon award in March 2012. Ridley became the chairman of the bank Northern Rock in 2004, resigning after a bank run in 2007.
Education and career
Ridley was educated at Eton College from 1970–1975 and then went on to Magdalen College of the University of Oxford and completed a BA degree with first class honours in zoology and then a DPhil degree in zoology in 1983.
Ridley was chairman of the UK bank Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, during this period Northern Rock experienced the first run on a British bank in 150 years. Ridley chose to resign, and the bank had to be bailed out by the UK government leading to the nationalisation of Northern Rock.
He was also founding chairman of the International Centre for Life, a non-profit science centre in Newcastle, UK, which has since become the largest provider of formally taught science workshops in Europe. He served as chairman for seven years. He formerly had been a governor of the Ditchley Foundation, which organises conferences at its stately home in Oxfordshire. He is a supporter of the British Humanist Association.
In 2013 he was elected as hereditary peer in the House of Lords.
He is the author of several works of popular science:
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, Alice meets the Red Queen who runs everywhere but stays in the same place. This book champions a Red Queen theory for the evolution of sexual reproduction: that it evolved so that the resultant genetic variation would thwart constantly mutating parasites.
In The Origins of Virtue, Ridley argues that the human mind has evolved a special instinct for social exchange that enables us to reap the benefits of co-operation, ostracise those who break the social contract and avoid the trap of being 'rational fools'. It traces the evolution of society first among genes, then among cells, then in ants, vampire bats, apes and dolphins, and finally among human beings. In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, former US President Bill Clinton named this book as one which had influenced his thinking.
This book examines one newly discovered gene from each of the 23 human chromosomes.
- 2003 Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human, also later released under the title The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture in 2004
This book discusses reasons why humans can be considered to be simultaneously free-willed and motivated by instinct and culture.
- 2006 Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code
Ridley's biography of Francis Crick won the Davis Prize for the history of science from the US History of Science Society.
Ridley also edited The Best American Science Writing 2002, one of a series of annual science writing anthologies edited by Jesse Cohen, and contributed a chapter to Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think, a collection of essays in honour of his friend Richard Dawkins (edited by his near-namesake Mark Ridley).
- 2010 The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, published by 4th Estate. Reviewed in Nature 465, 294–295 (20 May 2010). The Rational Optimist was shortlisted for the 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson prize.
Ridley argues that the capacity of humans for change and social progress is underestimated, and denies what he sees as overly pessimistic views of global climate change and Western birthrate decline.
Publications and articles
Ridley is the son of Matthew White Ridley, 4th Viscount Ridley (1925 – 2012), and Lady Anne Katharine Gabrielle Lumley (1928–2006), daughter of Lawrence Roger Lumley, 11th Earl of Scarbrough. With the death of his father in 2012, Ridley succeeded him as the 5th Viscount Ridley, having taken over the running of the family estate of Blagdon Hall, near Cramlington, Northumberland, some years before.
Ridley is married to the neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert and lives in northern England; he has a son and a daughter. He is a great grandson of the Victorian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and the nephew of the late conservative Cabinet minister, Nicholas Ridley, Baron Ridley of Liddesdale.
In September 2007 Northern Rock became the first British bank since 1878 to suffer a run on its finances at the start of the credit crunch. It was forced to apply to the Bank of England for emergency liquidity funding, following problems caused by the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The failure of the bank eventually led to the nationalisation of Northern Rock.
Matt Ridley resigned as chairman in October 2007, having been blamed by members of parliament for not recognising the risks of the bank's financial strategy and thereby "harming the reputation of the British banking industry."
Debate over Ridley's political philosophy
In a 2006 edition of the on-line magazine Edge - the third culture, Ridley wrote a response to the question "What's your dangerous idea?" which was entitled "Government is the problem not the solution", in which he describes his attitude to government regulation: "In every age and at every time there have been people who say we need more regulation, more government. Sometimes, they say we need it to protect exchange from corruption, to set the standards and police the rules, in which case they have a point, though often they exaggerate it... The dangerous idea we all need to learn is that the more we limit the growth of government, the better off we will all be."
In 2007 the environmentalist George Monbiot wrote an article in 'The Guardian' connecting Ridley's libertarian economic philosophy and the £27 billion failure of Northern Rock. In the same newspaper Terence Kealey defended libertarianism, arguing that the performance of the government's regulatory agencies confirmed scepticism about state intervention, because the government had crowded out the market's own regulatory mechanisms.
On 1 June 2010 Monbiot followed up his previous article in the context of Matt Ridley's book 'The Rational Optimist', which had just been published. Monbiot took the view that Ridley had failed to learn from the collapse of Northern Rock. Ridley has responded to Monbiot on his website, stating "George Monbiot’s recent attack on me in the Guardian is misleading. I do not hate the state. In fact, my views are much more balanced than Monbiot's selective quotations imply."  On 19 June 2010 Monbiot countered with another article on the Guardian website, further questioning Ridley's claims and his response.
In November 2010, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy exchange between Ridley and Microsoft founder Bill Gates on topics discussed in Ridley's book The Rational Optimist.  Gates said that "What Mr. Ridley fails to see is that worrying about the worst case—being pessimistic, to a degree—can actually help to drive a solution"; Ridley said "I am certainly not saying, "Don't worry, be happy." Rather, I'm saying, "Don't despair, be ambitious".
Ridley recently summarised his own views on his political philosophy during the 2011 Hayek lecture: "[T]hat the individual is not – and had not been for 120,000 years – able to support his lifestyle; that the key feature of trade is that it enables us to work for each other not just for ourselves; that there is nothing so anti-social (or impoverishing) as the pursuit of self sufficiency; and that authoritarian, top-down rule is not the source of order or progress."
In an email exchange, Ridley responded to environmental activist Mark Lynas' repeated charges of a right wing agenda with the following reply:
On the topic of labels, you repeatedly call me a member of “the right”. Again, on what grounds? I am not a reactionary in the sense of not wanting social change: I make this abundantly clear throughout my book. I am not a hierarchy lover in the sense of trusting the central authority of the state: quite the opposite. I am not a conservative who defends large monopolies, public or private: I celebrate the way competition causes creative destruction that benefits the consumer against the interest of entrenched producers. I do not preach what the rich want to hear — the rich want to hear the gospel of Monbiot, that technological change is bad, that the hoi polloi should stop clogging up airports, that expensive home-grown organic food is the way to go, that big business and big civil service should be in charge. So in what sense am I on the right? I am a social and economic liberal: I believe that economic liberty leads to greater opportunities for the poor to become less poor, which is why I am in favour of it. Market liberalism and social liberalism go hand in hand in my view.
- biography - official website Matt Ridley
- "Ex-Northern Rock chairman Ridley joins Lords". BBC News. 6 Feb 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- "Hayek Lecture 2011".
- "Angus Millar Lecture 2011".
- "2012 Fellows". The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- "Past Winners". Julian L. Simon Memorial Award.
- Additional bio-details from Debrett's People of Today 2007, p 1406,
- Ridley, Matt. "Matt Ridley's C.V.". Archived from the original on 6 July 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
- "International Centre for Life website".
- "The Ditchley Foundation: The Governors".
- [dead link]
- "The 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction". Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- The Samuel Johnson Prize http://www.thesamueljohnsonprize.co.uk/sjnav/books/2
- Beamish, David (6 Feb 2013). "Conservative Hereditary Peers’ By-election, February 2013: Result" (PDF). Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- ""Bill Clinton's World"". Foreign Policy. December 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
- "Angus Millar Lecture 2011 - Scientific Heresy". thersa.org. 31 October 2011.
- Post. "Mind and Matter column". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- Matthew White Ridley - website ThePeerage.com
- The Times 19 September 2007 Northern Rock chairman gives chief full backing
- Pfanner, Eric (15 September 2007). "Credit Crisis Hits Lender in Britain". New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
- "Northern Rock chairman quits after criticism from lawmakers". International Herald Tribune. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
- "What's your dangerous idea? Matt Ridley "Government is the problem not the solution"". The Edge. 1 January 2006. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
- Monbiot, George (23 October 2007). "Governments aren't perfect, but it's the libertarians who bleed us dry". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2007.
- Kealey, Terence (31 October 2007). "Response The state is crowding out successful market mechanisms". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
- Monbiot, George (7 June 2010). "The Man Who Wants to Northern Rock the Planet". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
- Ridley, Matt (7 June 2010). "Monbiot's errors". The Rational Optimist. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
- Monbiot, George (19 June 2010). "Ridleyed With Errors". George Monbiot. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- Ridley, Matt (26 November 2010). "Africa Needs Growth, Not Pity and Big Plans". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
- Gates, Bill (26 November 2010). "Africa Needs Aid, Not Flawed Theories". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
- "Matt Ridley 2011 Hayek lecture". The Manhattan Institute.
- "Debate with Matt Ridley on ocean acidification". Mark Lynas.
- Matt Ridley's website
- Treasury - Minutes of Evidence: Examination of Witnesses: Dr Matt Ridley, Chairman, Northern Rock
- Ridley interviewed for Massive Change Radio in January 2004
- Biography page on Edge.org
- Matt Ridley, "We've never had it so good - and it's all thanks to science," The Guardian, 3 April 2003. Article in newspaper.
- Matt Ridley, "What's your dangerous idea?"The Edge On-line magazine 2006
- Matt Ridley, "Darwin's Legacy", National Geographic, February 2009.
- Matt Ridley, "Putting Darwin in Genes", Thinking Digital, May 2009.
- Matt Ridley, 'When Ideas Have Sex', a video of his TED talk
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
Matthew White Ridley