Adam Rutherford

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Adam Rutherford
Adam Rutherford QED 02.jpg
Rutherford at QED, 2013
Adam David Rutherford

January 1975 (age 46)[1]
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
EducationIpswich School
Alma materUniversity College London (BSc, PhD)
Known forCreation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life;[2]
BBC Radio 4: Inside Science[3]
Scientific career
ThesisThe role of CHX10 in the development of the mammalian retina (2002)
InfluencesSteve Jones[4] Edit this at Wikidata

Adam David Rutherford (born 1975)[1][5] is a British geneticist, author, and broadcaster. He was an audio-visual content editor for the journal Nature for a decade, and is a frequent contributor to the newspaper The Guardian. He hosts the BBC Radio 4 programmes Inside Science and (with Hannah Fry) The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry; has produced several science documentaries; and has published books related to genetics and the origin of life.[6]

He is an Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Division of Biosciences at University College London.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Rutherford, who is half-Guyanese Indian,[8] was born in Ipswich in the East of England[9] and attended Ipswich School.[5]

He was admitted to the medical school at University College London, but transferred to a degree in evolutionary genetics,[5] including a project under Steve Jones studying stalk-eyed flies.[10][11] He was awarded a PhD[12] in genetics in 2002 by University College London for research completed at the UCL Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital. His PhD thesis subject was the role of a specific gene (CHX10) on eye development, with focus on the effect of mutations in this gene on the development of eye disorders.[12] Rutherford's other academic research was also on genetic causes of eye disorders, including the relation of retinoschisin to retinoschisis,[13] the role of mutations of the gene CRX in retinal dystrophy,[14] and the role of the gene CHX10 in microphthalmia in humans and mice.[15][16]


Rutherford published a book on the topic of the creation of life. The United Kingdom printing has been called "two books in one",[17] since Creation: The Origin of Life and Creation: The Future of Life[2] are printed back-to-back so that one can read the book from either end.[18] Among its topics, the first part of the book argues in support of the theory, first proposed by Thomas Gold, that life emerged not in primordial warm ponds, but in extremophile conditions in the deep ocean,[19] while the second part discusses "synthetic biology" – the use of genetic modification to create new organisms.[20] In the U.S., this book is published in a more conventional format with the title Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself.[21] He was also one of the authors whose works are included in the compilation The Atheist's Guide to Christmas.[22][23]

Rutherford was the Podcast Editor[24] and the audio-video editor for the journal Nature until 2013, being responsible for all the publication's published audio, video, and podcasts. He also published audio interviews with notable personalities, including Paul Bettany on his role playing Charles Darwin in the movie Creation,[25] and David Attenborough in his documentary Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life.[26] He wrote editorials on other diverse topics ranging from the overlap of Art and Science[27] to reviews of science-themed movies.[28]

Rutherford is a frequent contributor to The Guardian, writing primarily on science topics.[29] He wrote a blog series covering his thoughts and analysis while re-reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species,[30] and has written articles supporting the teaching of evolution in schools,[31][32] and criticizing the teaching of creationism as science.[33]

He also writes on religion, notably a 10-part series on his experience participating in the Alpha course,[34] and on New Age themes and alternative medicine, including a review critical of Rupert Sheldrake's A New Science of Life,[35] and criticism of the lack of controls on advertising claims for homeopathy.[36]

As a guest writer, he published an article in Wired on the possibility of using DNA for information storage.[37]

Rutherford has returned to University College London, where he is an Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Division of Biosciences and teaches courses on genetics and communications.[7]


Rutherford frequently appears on BBC science programmes, on both radio and television.[10] Since 2013, he has been the host[38] of the programme Inside Science on BBC Radio 4.[3] In 2012 he was featured on the series Horizon on BBC Two television in the documentary Playing God,[39] which covered synthetic biology using the example of the "Spider Goat", a goat genetically modified to produce spider silk in its milk.[40]

In 2011 he presented, on BBC Four, The Gene Code,[41] a two-part series on the implications of the decoding of the human genome,[42] and his documentary, Science Betrayed,[43] detailed the story of the discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism.[44] In 2010, The Cell, his three-part series on the discovery of cells and the development of cell biology,[45] presented on BBC Four,[46] was included in The Daily Telegraph's list of "10 classic science programmes".[47] In 2006, Discovery Science produced the six-episode TV series Men in White, in which three scientists, Rutherford, Basil Singer and Jem Stansfield, applied science to the solution of everyday problems.[5]

He also appeared in BBC Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage, with physicist Brian Cox, physician and science writer Ben Goldacre, author Simon Singh, musician Tim Minchin, and comedians Helen Arney and Robin Ince, and with The Infinite Monkey Cage Tour, the live show based on the programme.[48] Rutherford is a frequent guest on the Little Atoms radio chat show,[49] and he has also acted as a science advisor on programmes such as The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, and the film World War Z.[10]

In 2011 he conceived and directed Space Shuttles United,[50] a video and musical tribute to all the space shuttle missions.[51]

He co-presents The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry with mathematician Hannah Fry. As of 2021 the programme is airing its 18th series on BBC Radio 4.[52]

Public speaking and outreach[edit]

Adam Rutherford speaking at QEDCon 2013, on the Origin and the Future of Life.

Rutherford is a frequent speaker at scientific and academic events[53] and a guest at local science and sceptical events, such as Skeptics in the Pub.[54][55][56]

In 2013, he was an invited speaker at the QED conference in Manchester,[57] and at the 2013 North East Postgraduate Conference,[58] and delivered the 11th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London for Save the Rhino International.[59][60] In 2012, he delivered the annual Darwin Day Lecture for Humanists UK.[61] In 2019, he delivered the Humanists UK Voltaire Lecture; the lecture formed the basis of his future book How to Argue With a Racist.[62]

Rutherford was a judge and host of the award ceremonies for the 2012 and 2013 Google Science Fairs.[63] In June 2017, Rutherford participated in a public discussion with Alan Alda at the University of Dundee, on the occasion of Alda's receiving an honorary degree from that institution.[53] In November 2017, he participated in a debate with Robert Winston on the subject of superhumans at the University of Southampton.[64]


  • Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life, Penguin Books (2014), ISBN 9780670920440
  • A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2016), ISBN 978-0297609377 – UK edition
  • A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, The Experiment (2017), ISBN 978-1615194049 – updated US edition
  • Genetics (illus. Ruth Palmer), Ladybird Books (2018), ISBN 978-0718188276
  • The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2018), ISBN 978-0297609407
  • Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary History, The Experiment (2019), ISBN 9781615195312
  • How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality (2020) ISBN 9781474611244

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 2014 Wellcome Book Prize shortlist for Creation: The Origin of Life[65][66]
  • 2017 Wellcome Book Prize longlist for A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived[67]


  1. ^ a b Anon (2018). "Adam David RUTHERFORD". London: Companies House. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b Rutherford, Adam (4 April 2013), Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life, Viking, p. 272, ISBN 978-0670920440
  3. ^ a b Rutherford, A, BBC 4 "Inside Science" Series
  4. ^ Rutherford, Adam (2016) A Brief History of Everyone who Ever Lived ISBN 1780229070
  5. ^ a b c d "One of the zany Men in White". East Anglian Daily Times. 4 October 2006. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  6. ^ "BBC Inside Science - Adam Rutherford - BBC Radio 4". BBC.
  7. ^ a b "Dr Adam Rutherford". UCL Division of Biosciences.
  8. ^ Rutherford, Adam (22 May 2012). "World Goth Day has roused dark memories in me". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "Bin Laden more deadly as a martyr". Ipswich Star. 6 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Dr Adam Rutherford presents Radio 4's Inside Science, BBC Radio 4
  11. ^ David, Patrice; Hingle, Andrew; Greig, Duncan; Rutherford, Adam; Pomiankowski, Andrew; Fowler, Kevin (1998), "Male sexual ornament size but not asymmetry reflects condition in stalk–eyed flies", Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 265 (1411): 2211–2216, doi:10.1098/rspb.1998.0561, ISSN 0962-8452, PMC 1689512
  12. ^ a b Rutherford, Adam David (2002). The role of CHX10 in the development of the mammalian retina. (PhD thesis). University College London (University of London). OCLC 498845531. EThOS
  13. ^ Grayson, Celene; Reid, Silvia NM; Ellis, Juliet A; Rutherford, Adam; Sowden, Jane C; Yates, John RW; Farber, Debora B; Trump, Dorothy (2000), "Retinoschisin, the X-linked retinoschisis protein, is a secreted photoreceptor protein, and is expressed and released by Weri–Rb1 cells", Human Molecular Genetics, 9 (12): 1873–1879, doi:10.1093/hmg/9.12.1873, ISSN 0964-6906, PMID 10915776, archived from the original on 1 March 2014
  14. ^ Bibb, Lindsay C; Holt, James KL; Tarttelin, Emma E; Hodges, Matthew D; Gregory-Evans, Kevin; Rutherford, Adam; Lucas, Robert J; Sowden, Jane C; Gregory-Evans, Cheryl Y (2001), "Temporal and spatial expression patterns of the CRX transcription factor and its downstream targets. Critical differences during human and mouse eye development", Human Molecular Genetics, 10 (15): 1571–1579, doi:10.1093/hmg/10.15.1571, ISSN 0964-6906, PMID 11468275
  15. ^ Percin, E Ferda; Ploder, Lynda A; Jessica, J Yu; Arici, Kemal; Horsford, D Jonathan; Rutherford, Adam; Bapat, Bharati; Cox, Diane W; Duncan, Alessandra MV; Kalnins, Vitauts I (2000), "Human microphthalmia associated with mutations in the retinal homeobox gene CHX10", Nature Genetics, 25 (4): 397–401, doi:10.1038/78071, PMID 10932181, S2CID 9508022
  16. ^ Rutherford, Adam D; Dhomen, Nathalie; Smith, Hazel K; Sowden, Jane C (2004), "Delayed expression of the Crx gene and photoreceptor development in the Chx10-deficient retina", Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 45 (2): 375–384, doi:10.1167/iovs.03-0332, ISSN 1552-5783, PMID 14744875
  17. ^ Lane, Nick (6 April 2013), "Creation: The Origin of Life; The Future of Life, by Adam Rutherford – review", The Observer
  18. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (28 January 2014), "Creation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life by Adam Rutherford – review", The Guardian, retrieved 2 February 2014
  19. ^ Forbes, Peter (27 March 2013), "Creation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life by Adam Rutherford – review", The Guardian
  20. ^ Long, Karen (21 June 2013), "'Creation' explains how science reinvents life", Los Angeles Times
  21. ^ Rutherford, Adam (27 May 2014), Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself, Current, p. 288, ISBN 978-1617230110
  22. ^ The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, Harper-Collins, 2 November 2010, p. 307, ISBN 9780061997976
  23. ^ Holland, Jessica (24 October 2010), "The Atheist's Guide to Christmas by various authors – review", The Guardian
  24. ^ Archive by author: Adam Rutherford
  25. ^ Rutherford, Adam (2009), "Q&A: Getting under Darwin's skin", Nature, 457 (7233): 1087, Bibcode:2009Natur.457.1087R, doi:10.1038/4571087b, ISSN 0028-0836, PMID 19242459
  26. ^ Rutherford, Adam (2009), "Q&A: Building on paradise", Nature, 457 (7232): 967, Bibcode:2009Natur.457..967R, doi:10.1038/457967a, ISSN 0028-0836, PMID 19225509
  27. ^ Abbott, Alison; Rutherford, Adam (2005), "Editorial: Artists on science: scientists on art", Nature, 434 (7031): 293, Bibcode:2005Natur.434..293A, doi:10.1038/434293a, ISSN 0028-0836
  28. ^ Rutherford, Adam (2003), "Cinema: Return of the mutants", Nature, 423 (6936): 119, Bibcode:2003Natur.423..119R, doi:10.1038/423119b, ISSN 0028-0836
  29. ^ Guardian, The, Adam Rutherford
  30. ^ Rutherford, AD (9 February 2008), "Blogging Darwin", The Guardian
  31. ^ Rutherford, AD (7 November 2008), "The evolution of science teaching", The Guardian
  32. ^ Rutherford, AD (5 January 2009), "Evolution: the rules of engagement", The Guardian
  33. ^ Rutherford, AD (2 February 2009), "Fools rush in", The Guardian
  34. ^ Rutherford, AD (2009), "Alpha Male", The Guardian
  35. ^ Rutherford, AD (6 February 2009), "A book for ignoring", The Guardian
  36. ^ Rutherford, AD (23 October 2009), "Who's afraid of a homeopath's woo?", The Guardian
  37. ^ Rutherford, AD (11 July 2013), "What better way to store data than zipped in DNA files", Wired
  38. ^ Rutherford, AD (4 July 2013), "Radio 4 launches new weekly science show, Inside Science", The Guardian
  39. ^ Rutherford, AD (14 January 2012), "Synthetic biology and the rise of the 'spider-goats'", The Observer
  40. ^ Marszal, Andrew (17 January 2012), "Horizon: Playing God, BBC Two, review", The Telegraph
  41. ^ 4, BBC Radio, The Gene Code, BBC Radio 4
  42. ^ Raeburn, Sandy (9 May 2011), "TV Review: The Gene Code – The Book of Life / Unlocking the Code",
  43. ^ Rutherford, AD (17 March 2011), Science Betrayed
  44. ^ "Science Betrayed: Reflections on research misconduct", BioethicsBytes, 4 April 2011
  45. ^ Rutherford, A, BBC Four: The Cell
  46. ^ Wilson, B (12 August 2009), The Cell (BBC Four): TV review
  47. ^ "Ten classic science programmes", The Telegraph, 14 December 2010
  48. ^ Hollingshead, Iain (10 December 2011), "Brian Cox and co: sexy science pulls in the crowds", The Telegraph, archived from the original on 10 December 2011
  49. ^ Atoms, L, Adam Rutherford on Little Atoms
  50. ^ "Our love letter to the Shuttle", Of Schemes and Memes Blog, Nature Publishing Group, 21 July 2011
  51. ^ Rutherford, A (21 July 2011), "Space shuttles united – a video tribute", The Guardian
  52. ^ "The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry". BBC. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  53. ^ a b Dundee, University of. "An Evening With Alan Alda: Events". University of Dundee. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  54. ^ Jago, Crispian (23 April 2011), Adam Rutherford at Winchester Skeptics in the Pub
  55. ^ "Synthetic biology, hip hop and the law", Soho Skeptics, 14 February 2013
  56. ^ "From Chuck D to Chuck D: Hip Hop, Remixing and Synthetic Biology", Norwich Skeptics in the Pub, 6 February 2014
  57. ^ "Creation: the Origin and the Future of Life",
  58. ^ "From Chuck D to Chuck D: Evolution, synthetic biology and the story of hip hop", 2013 North East Postgraduate Conference, 2013, archived from the original on 5 March 2014
  59. ^ The eleventh Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture – Dr Adam Rutherford & Stephen Mangan, 1 March 2013
  60. ^ Rutherford, AD (12 March 2013), "Eleventh Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture", British Science Association, archived from the original on 21 November 2013
  61. ^ "Darwin Day Lecture 2012", The Pod Delusion, 2012
  62. ^ "Humanists will always stand up to racism: the Voltaire Lecture 2019". Humanists UK. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  63. ^ Sager, Christian (26 August 2013), "Who Judges Genius in Google's 2013 Science Fair?", Stuff of Genius
  64. ^ "IDS 10th Anniversary Event". University of Southampton.
  65. ^ "Andrew Motion announces shortlist for the Wellcome Book Prize 2014", Wellcome Trust, 25 February 2014, retrieved 26 February 2014
  66. ^ GrrlScientist (26 February 2014), "Wellcome Trust's Book Prize 2014 shortlist announced", The Guardian, retrieved 26 February 2014
  67. ^ "Wellcome Book Prize 2017". Wellcome Book Prize. Retrieved 7 March 2019.

External links[edit]