Adam Rutherford

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

January 1975 (age 45)[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]

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 programme Inside Science, has produced several science documentaries and has published books related to genetics and the origin of life.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Rutherford, who is half Guyanese Indian,[7] was born in Ipswich in the East of England[8] 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.[9][10] He was awarded a PhD[11] 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.[11] Rutherford's other academic research was also on genetic causes of eye disorders, including the relation of retinoschisin to retinoschisis,[12] the role of mutations of the gene CRX in retinal dystrophy,[13] and the role of the gene CHX10 in microphthalmia in humans and mice.[14][15]


Rutherford published a book on the topic of the creation of life. The United Kingdom printing has been called "two books in one",[16] 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.[17] 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,[18] while the second part discusses "synthetic biology" – the use of genetic modification to create new organisms.[19] In the United States this book is published in a more conventional format with the title, Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself.[20] He was also one of the authors whose works are included in the compilation The Atheist's Guide to Christmas.[21][22]

Rutherford was the Podcast Editor[23] and the audio-video editor for the journal Nature until 2013, 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,[24] and David Attenborough on his documentary Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life.[25] He wrote editorials on other diverse topics ranging from the overlap of Art and Science[26] to reviews of science-themed movies.[27]

Rutherford is a frequent contributor to The Guardian, writing primarily on science topics.[28] He wrote a blog series covering his thoughts and analysis while re-reading Darwin's On the Origin of Species,[29] and has written articles supporting the teaching of evolution in schools,[30][31] and criticizing the teaching of creationism as science.[32]

He also writes on religion, notably a 10-part series on his experience participating in the Alpha course,[33] and on New Age themes and alternative medicine, including a review critical of Rupert Sheldrake's A New Science of Life,[34] and criticism of the lack of controls on advertising claims for homeopathy.[35]

As a guest writer, he published an article in Wired on the possibility of using DNA for information storage.[36]


Rutherford frequently appears on BBC science programmes, on both radio and television.[9] Since 2013 he has been the host[37] of the program 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,[38] which covered synthetic biology using the example of the "Spider Goat", a goat genetically modified to produce spider silk in its milk.[39]

In 2011 he presented, on BBC Four, The Gene Code,[40] a two-part series on the implications of the decoding of the human genome,[41] and his documentary, Science Betrayed,[42] detailed the story of the discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism.[43] In 2010, The Cell, his 3-part series on the discovery of cells and the development of cell biology,[44] presented on BBC Four,[45] was included in the Daily Telegraph's list of "10 classic science programmes".[46] 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.[47] Rutherford is a frequent guest on the Little Atoms radio chat show,[48] 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.[9]

In 2011 he conceived and directed Space Shuttles United,[49] a video and musical tribute to all the space shuttle missions.[50]

He co-presents The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry with mathematician Hannah Fry which aired its 14th series on BBC Radio 4 in 2019.[51]

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[52] and a guest at local science and sceptical events, such as Skeptics in the Pub.[53][54][55]

In 2013 he was an invited speaker at the QED conference in Manchester[56] and at the 2013 North East Postgraduate Conference,[57] and he delivered the 11th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London for Save the Rhino International.[58][59] In 2012 he delivered the annual Darwin Day Lecture for Humanists UK.[60]

Rutherford was a judge and host of the award ceremonies for the 2012 and 2013 Google Science Fairs.[61] 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.[52] In November 2017, he participated in a debate with Robert Winston on the subject of superhumans at the University of Southampton.[62]


  • New Revelation in the Great Pyramid, Literary Licensing (2013), ISBN 9781258897086
  • 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[63][64]
  • 2017 Wellcome Book Prize longlist for A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived[65]


  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. ^ Adam Rutherford (2016) A Brief History of Everyone who Ever Lived[ISBN missing]
  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. ^ Rutherford, Adam (22 May 2012). "World Goth Day has roused dark memories in me". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Bin Laden more deadly as a martyr". Ipswich Star. 6 May 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b c "Dr Adam Rutherford presents Radio 4's Inside Science", BBC Radio 4
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Lane, Nick (6 April 2013), "Creation: The Origin of Life; The Future of Life, by Adam Rutherford – review", The Observer
  17. ^ Lezard, N (28 January 2014), "Creation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life by Adam Rutherford – review", The Guardian, retrieved 2 February 2014
  18. ^ Forbes, Peter (27 March 2013), "Creation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life by Adam Rutherford – review", The Guardian
  19. ^ Long, Karen (21 June 2013), "'Creation' explains how science reinvents life", Los Angeles Times
  20. ^ Rutherford, Adam (27 May 2014), Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself, Current, p. 288, ISBN 978-1617230110
  21. ^ The Atheist's Guide to Christmas, Harper-Collins, 2 November 2010, p. 307, ISBN 9780061997976
  22. ^ Holland, Jessica (24 October 2010), "The Atheist's Guide to Christmas by various authors – review", The Guardian
  23. ^ Archive by author: Adam Rutherford
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ Rutherford, Adam (2003), "Cinema: Return of the mutants", Nature, 423 (6936): 119, Bibcode:2003Natur.423..119R, doi:10.1038/423119b, ISSN 0028-0836
  28. ^ Guardian, The, Adam Rutherford
  29. ^ Rutherford, AD (9 February 2008), "Blogging Darwin", The Guardian
  30. ^ Rutherford, AD (7 November 2008), "The evolution of science teaching", The Guardian
  31. ^ Rutherford, AD (5 January 2009), "Evolution: the rules of engagement", The Guardian
  32. ^ Rutherford, AD (2 February 2009), "Fools rush in", The Guardian
  33. ^ Rutherford, AD (2009), "Alpha Male", The Guardian
  34. ^ Rutherford, AD (6 February 2009), "A book for ignoring", The Guardian
  35. ^ Rutherford, AD (23 October 2009), "Who's afraid of a homeopath's woo?", The Guardian
  36. ^ Rutherford, AD (11 July 2013), "What better way to store data than zipped in DNA files", Wired
  37. ^ Rutherford, AD (4 July 2013), "Radio 4 launches new weekly science show, Inside Science", The Guardian
  38. ^ Rutherford, AD (14 January 2012), "Synthetic biology and the rise of the 'spider-goats'", The Observer
  39. ^ Marszal, Andrew (17 January 2012), "Horizon: Playing God, BBC Two, review", The Telegraph
  40. ^ 4, BBC Radio, "The Gene Code", BBC Radio 4
  41. ^ Raeburn, Sandy (9 May 2011), "TV Review: The Gene Code – The Book of Life / Unlocking the Code",
  42. ^ Rutherford, AD (17 March 2011), Science Betrayed
  43. ^ "Science Betrayed: Reflections on research misconduct", BioethicsBytes, 4 April 2011
  44. ^ Rutherford, A, BBC Four: The Cell
  45. ^ Wilson, B (12 August 2009), The Cell (BBC Four): TV review
  46. ^ "Ten classic science programmes", The Telegraph, 14 December 2010
  47. ^ Hollingshead, Iain (10 December 2011), "Brian Cox and co: sexy science pulls in the crowds", The Telegraph
  48. ^ Atoms, L, Adam Rutherford on Little Atoms
  49. ^ "Our love letter to the Shuttle", Of Schemes and Memes Blog, Nature Publishing Group, 21 July 2011
  50. ^ Rutherford, A (21 July 2011), "Space shuttles united – a video tribute", The Guardian
  51. ^ "The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry". BBC. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  52. ^ a b Dundee, University of. "An Evening With Alan Alda : Events". University of Dundee. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  53. ^ Jago, Crispian (23 April 2011), Adam Rutherford at Winchester Skeptics in the Pub
  54. ^ "Synthetic biology, hip hop and the law", Soho Skeptics, 14 February 2013
  55. ^ "From Chuck D to Chuck D: Hip Hop, Remixing and Synthetic Biology", Norwich Skeptics in the Pub, 6 February 2014
  56. ^ "Creation: the Origin and the Future of Life",
  57. ^ "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
  58. ^ The eleventh Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture – Dr Adam Rutherford & Stephen Mangan, 1 March 2013
  59. ^ Rutherford, AD (12 March 2013), "Eleventh Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture", British Science Association, archived from the original on 21 November 2013
  60. ^ "Darwin Day Lecture 2012", The Pod Delusion, 2012
  61. ^ Sager, Christian (26 August 2013), "Who Judges Genius in Google's 2013 Science Fair?", Stuff of Genius
  62. ^ "IDS 10th Anniversary Event". University of Southampton.
  63. ^ "Andrew Motion announces shortlist for the Wellcome Book Prize 2014", Wellcome Trust, 25 February 2014, retrieved 26 February 2014
  64. ^ GrrlScientist (26 February 2014), "Wellcome Trust's Book Prize 2014 shortlist announced", The Guardian, retrieved 26 February 2014
  65. ^ "Wellcome Book Prize 2017". Wellcome Book Prize. Retrieved 7 March 2019.