Alice Roberts

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Alice Roberts
12 01 2016 Alice headshot.jpg
Alice Roberts in January 2016
BornAlice May Roberts
(1973-05-19) 19 May 1973 (age 45)[1]
Bristol, England
EducationRedmaids' High School
Alma materUniversity of Wales (BSc, MB BCh)
University of Bristol (PhD)[2]
Known for
AwardsMorgan-Botti lecture (2014)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (2018)[3]
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Birmingham
National Health Service
British Broadcasting Corporation
University of Wales
University of Bristol
ThesisRotator cuff disease in humans and apes : a palaeopathological and evolutionary perspective on shoulder pathology (2008)

Alice May Roberts (born 19 May 1973)[1][5] is an English evolutionary biologist, biological anthropologist,[4] television presenter[6] and author.[7][8][9] She was appointed Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham in 2012.[10]

Early life and education[edit]

Roberts was born in Bristol in 1973, the daughter of an aeronautical engineer and an English and arts teacher.[11] She grew up in Westbury-on-Trym where she attended Westbury C-of-E Primary School[12] and Redmaids' High School.[5][13][14] In December 1988 she won the BBC1 Blue Peter Young Artists competition, appearing with her picture and the presenters on the front cover of the 10 December 1988 edition of the Radio Times.[15]

Roberts studied Medicine at University of Wales College of Medicine (now part of Cardiff University) and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB BCh) degree, having gained an intercalated Bachelor of Science degree in anatomy.[13][16][17][10]

Research and career[edit]

After graduating in 1997, Roberts worked as a junior doctor with the National Health Service in South Wales for 18 months. In 1998 she left clinical medicine and worked as an anatomy demonstrator in the Anatomy Department at the University of Bristol, becoming a lecturer there in 1999.[5][13][18]

Roberts spent seven years working part-time on her PhD in paleopathology, the study of disease in ancient human remains, receiving the degree in 2008.[5][13][2] She worked as Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Bristol Centre for Comparative and Clinical Anatomy, where her main roles were teaching clinical anatomy, embryology and physical anthropology, as well as researching osteoarchaeology and paleopathology.[13][16][19] She stated in 2009 that she was working towards becoming a professor of anatomy.[20]

In 2009, she co-presented modules for the Beating Bipolar programme, the first internet-based education treatment for patients with bipolar depression, trialled by Cardiff University researchers.[21]

From August 2009 until January 2012, Roberts was a Visiting Fellow in both the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Department of Anatomy of the University of Bristol.[16][22][23]

In February 2012, Roberts was appointed the University of Birmingham's first Professor of Public Engagement in Science.[24][25][26]

She is currently[when?] the Director of Anatomy for Bristol's Severn Deanery Postgraduate School of Surgery and is also an Honorary Fellow of Hull York Medical School.[27][28]

Writing in the I newspaper in 2016, Roberts dismissed the aquatic ape hypothesis (AAH) as a distraction "from the emerging story of human evolution that is more interesting and complex", adding that AAH has become "a theory of everything" that is simultaneously "too extravagant and too simple". She concluded by saying that "science is about evidence, not wishful thinking".[29][30]

Roberts will deliver the 2018 Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution in London.[3] She is President-elect of British Science Association; her term will start in September 2019.[31]

Television career[edit]

Now a familiar face on British TV as a presenter on various science documentary programmes, Alice Roberts is one of the regular co-presenters of BBC geographical and environmental series Coast.[32]

Roberts first appeared on television in the Time Team Live 2001 episode,[33][34] working on Anglo-Saxon burials at Breamore, Hampshire. She went on to serve as a bone specialist and general presenter in many episodes, including the spin-off series Extreme Archaeology. In August 2006, a Time Team special episode Big Royal Dig investigated the archaeology of Britain's royal palaces and Roberts was one of the main presenters.

Roberts wrote and presented a BBC Two series on anatomy and health entitled Dr Alice Roberts: Don't Die Young, which screened from January 2007.[35] She presented a five-part BBC Two series on human evolution and early human migrations entitled The Incredible Human Journey, beginning on 10 May 2009.[36] In September 2009, she co-presented (with Mark Hamilton) A Necessary Evil?, a one-hour documentary about the Burke and Hare murders.[37]

In August 2010 she presented a one-hour documentary on BBC Four, Wild Swimming, inspired by Roger Deakin’s book Waterlog.[38] Roberts presented a four-part BBC Two series on archaeology in August–September 2010, Digging for Britain.[39][40] Roberts explained, "We’re taking a fresh approach by showing British archaeology as it's happening out in the field, from the excitement of artefacts as they come out of the ground, through to analysing them in the lab and working out what they tell us about human history."[41] The series returned in 2011 and again (on BBC Four) in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

In March 2011 she presented a BBC documentary in the Horizon series entitled Are We Still Evolving?[42] She presented the series Origins of Us, which aired on BBC Two in October 2011, examining how the human body has adapted through seven million years of evolution.[43] The last part of this series featured Roberts visiting the Rift Valley.

In April 2012 Roberts presented Woolly Mammoth: Secrets from the Ice on BBC Two.[44] From 22 to 24 October 2012, she appeared, with co-presenter Dr George McGavin, in the BBC series Prehistoric Autopsy,[45] which discussed the remains of early hominins such as Neanderthals, Homo erectus and Australopithecus afarensis. In May and June 2013 she presented the BBC Two series Ice Age Giants.[46] In September 2014 she was a presenter on the Horizon programme Is Your Brain Male or Female?[47].

In October 2014 she presented Spider House.[48]

In 2015 she co-presented a 3-part BBC TV documentary with Neil Oliver entitled The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice[49] and wrote a book to tie in with the series: The Celts: Search for a Civilisation.[50]

In April–May 2016 she co-presented the BBC Two programme Food Detectives which looked at food nutrition and its effects on the body.

In May 2017 she was a presenter of the BBC Two documentary The Day The Dinosaurs Died.[51]

In April 2018 she presented the six-part Channel 4 series Britain's Most Historic Towns[52], which examines the history of six British towns, namely:

  • Chester – Britain’s Most Roman Town
  • York – Britain’s Most Viking Town
  • Winchester – Britain’s Most Norman Town
  • Norwich – Britain’s Most Tudor Town
  • Cheltenham – Britain’s Most Regency Town
  • Belfast – Britain’s Most Victorian Town[53]

In September 2018 she presented the BBC Two documentary King Arthur's Britain: The Truth Unearthed, which examines new archaeological discoveries that cast light on the political and trading situation in Britain during the Early Middle Ages.[54]


Roberts has authored or co-authored a number of peer reviewed scientific articles in journals.[4][55][56][57][58] Her published books include:

  • Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World[59]
  • The Celts: Search for a Civilisation[60]
  • The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us[61]
  • Evolution The Human Story[62]
  • The Complete Human Body[63]
  • The Incredible Human Journey[64]
  • Don't Die Young: An Anatomist's Guide to Your Organs and Your Health[35]
  • Proceedings of the 6th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology[65]

Awards and honours[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Roberts lives with her husband and two children, a daughter born in 2010 and a son born in 2013.[67] She met her husband in Cardiff in 1997 when she was a medical student and he was an archaeology student.[5][16][20][32][68] She is a pescatarian,[69] a humanist[70] and President-elect of Humanists UK, beginning her three-year term on January 1st, 2019.[71][31]

Roberts enjoys watercolour painting, surfing, cycling, gardening and pub quizzes.[5] Roberts is an organiser of the Cheltenham Science Festival and school outreach programmes within the University of Bristol's Medical Sciences Division.[13] In March 2007, she hosted the Bristol Medical School's charity dance show Clicendales 2007, to raise funds for the charity CLIC Sargent.[72]

Roberts took her baby daughter with her when touring for the six-months filming of Digging for Britain.[41]


  1. ^ a b Twitter feed by Roberts. Twitter.
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Alice May (2008). Rotator cuff disease in humans and apes: a palaeopathological and evolutionary perspective on shoulder pathology. (PhD thesis). University of Bristol. OCLC 931580371. EThOS
  3. ^ a b c "CHRISTMAS LECTURES 2018: Who am I?".
  4. ^ a b c d Alice Roberts publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  5. ^ a b c d e f "In the hot seat: Alice Roberts". 11 July 2008. Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  6. ^ Alice Roberts on IMDb
  7. ^ "Science Week: Alice's inspiration". 9 March 2009 – via
  8. ^ "Interview with Alice Roberts".
  9. ^ Roberts interviewed by Robert Llewellyn on Carpool, 25 September 2009
  10. ^ a b "Professor Alice Roberts - Professor of Public Engagement in Science". University of Birmingham. University of Birmingham.
  11. ^ Lewis, Roz (27 March 2013). "TV academic Alice Roberts: 'I started as a doctor on £21,000'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  12. ^ "In the hot seat: Alice Roberts". Bristol Post. 11 July 2008. Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Staff: Dr Alice May Roberts MB BCh BSc PhD". University of Bristol. 24 April 2009. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  14. ^ "The Red Maids' School Celebrating 375 Years" (PDF). Red Maids' School. 2009. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2009. This conference ... will be led by former Red Maid and star of BBC's Coast, Dr Alice Roberts ...
  15. ^ "RT 3393 - 10-16 Dec 1988 (South) BLUE PETER - 30 Years - Alice Roberts with her Blue Peter picture". Radio Times (3393). 10 December 1988. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  16. ^ a b c d "University of Bristol: Directory of Experts". University of Bristol. Retrieved 27 May 2009.
  17. ^ Channel 4 – Time Team biography. Channel 4.
  18. ^ Carpool web series Carpool interview. 23 May 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  19. ^ "Staff summaries". University of Bristol. 31 March 2009. Archived from the original on 3 June 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
  20. ^ a b Deacon, Michael (5 May 2009). "Interview: Alice Roberts on The Incredible Human Journey". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  21. ^ "Cardiff researchers to test first online treatment for bipolar depression". Wales Online. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Research". Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  23. ^ "University of Bristol: Contact Directory". Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  24. ^ Dr Alice Roberts talks about her role at the University of Birmingham. YouTube. 20 January 2012.
  25. ^ "University of Birmingham appoints Alice Roberts as first Professor of Public Engagement in Science". University of Birmingham. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  26. ^ Paton, Graeme (22 January 2012). "Alice Roberts hits out at science 'geeks'". The Daily Telegraph.
  27. ^ BBC Two – Origins of Us. (31 October 2011).
  28. ^ Surgery – Home – Severn Deanery – NHS Archived 5 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine..
  29. ^ The "i" newspaper, 17 September 2016, page 23
  30. ^ Roberts, Alice (16 September 2016). "Sorry David Attenborough, we didn't evolve from 'aquatic apes' – here's why". The Conversation. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  31. ^ a b Sherwood, Harriet (11 November 2018). "TV scientist Alice Roberts to be president of Humanists UK". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  32. ^ a b "The Team". Coast. BBC. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  33. ^ "Programmes - Most Popular - All 4". Channel 4.
  34. ^ Time Team Live 2001. Channel 4.
  35. ^ a b Roberts, Alice (2007). Don't Die Young: An Anatomist's Guide to Your Organs and Your Health. Bloomsbury Publishing: London, 2007. ISBN 0-7475-9025-7.
  36. ^ BBC – Press Office – The BBC's Darwin Season press pack: BBC Two. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  37. ^ "A Necessary Evil?". BBC. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  38. ^ Wild Swimming BBC site, retrieved 14 August 2010. (12 August 2012).
  39. ^ "Digging for Britain". BBC TV website. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  40. ^ "Huge Roman coin find for hobbyist". BBC News. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  41. ^ a b Hogan, Michael (13 August 2010). "Digging for history... but it's not Time Team". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  42. ^ BBC Horizon Are We Still Evolving?. (27 August 2012).
  43. ^ Plunkett, John (18 October 2011). "Origins of Us begins with 1.78m viewers". The Guardian. London.
  44. ^ "Woolly Mammoth: Secrets from the Ice". BBC. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  45. ^ "Prehistoric Autopsy". BBC. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  46. ^ Alex Campbell (17 May 2013). "Uncovering the secrets of North America's Ice Age giants". BBC. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  47. ^ "Alice Roberts: Boys' and girls' brains aren't so different". Radio Times. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  48. ^ "Professor Alice Roberts faces her fears". BBC. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  49. ^ "The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice". BBC. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  50. ^ Roberts, Alice (2015). The Celts: Search for a Civilisation. Heron Books. p. 320. ISBN 1784293326.
  51. ^ Amos, Jonathan (15 May 2017). "Dinosaur asteroid hit 'worst possible place'". Retrieved 17 May 2017 – via
  52. ^ "Britain's Most Historic Town". Channel 4. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  53. ^ Horsford, Simon (6 April 2018). "Uncovering the secrets of Britain's most historic towns – from Viking hairstyles to a fondness for enemas". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  54. ^ "King Arthur's Britain: The Truth Unearthed". BBC. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  55. ^ Brown, K. R.; Silver, I. A.; Musgrave, J. H.; Roberts, A. M. (2010). "The use of μCT technology to identify skull fracture in a case involving blunt force trauma". Forensic Science International. 206 (1–3): e8–e11. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.06.013. PMID 20673617.
  56. ^ Lockwood, A. M.; Roberts, A. M. (2007). "The anatomy demonstrator of the future: An examination of the role of the medically-qualified anatomy demonstrator in the context of tomorrow's doctors and modernizing medical careers". Clinical Anatomy. 20 (4): 455–459. doi:10.1002/ca.20427. PMID 17072876.
  57. ^ Roberts, A. M.; Peters, T. J.; Robson Brown, K. A. (2007). "New light on old shoulders: palaeopathological patterns of arthropathy and enthesopathy in the shoulder complex". Journal of Anatomy. 211 (4): 485–492. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2007.00789.x. PMC 2375834. PMID 17711424.
  58. ^ Roberts, A. M.; Robson-Brown, K.; Musgrave, J. H.; Leslie, I. (2006). "A case of bilateral scapholunate advanced collapse in a Romano-British skeleton from Ancaster". International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 16 (3): 208. doi:10.1002/oa.817.
  59. ^ Roberts, Alice (2017). Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World. Hutchinson Books. ISBN 178633061X.
  60. ^ Roberts, Alice (2015). The Celts: Search for a Civilisation. Heron Books. ISBN 1784293326.
  61. ^ a b Roberts, Alice (2014). The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us. Heron Books. ISBN 1-8486-6477-X.
  62. ^ Roberts, Alice (2011). Evolution The Human Story. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 1-4053-6165-4. Revised edition (2018), Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4654-7401-8
  63. ^ Roberts, Alice (2010). The Complete Human Body. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 1-4053-4749-X.
  64. ^ Roberts, Alice (2009). The Incredible Human Journey. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 0-7475-9839-8.
  65. ^ Robson-Brown, Kate; Roberts, Alice (eds.) (2007). BABAO 2004 : Proceedings of the 6th Annual Conference of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology, University of Bristol. British Archaeological Reports. Oxford, England: Archaeopress. ISBN 978-1-4073-0035-1.
  66. ^ "Alice May Roberts". University of Leeds. July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  67. ^ Gallagher, Paul (30 August 2014). "Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  68. ^ Fowler, M., "Just Another Animal? – Dr Alice Roberts discovers how our ancestors colonised the planet." TV Choice magazine, 9–15 May 2009.
  69. ^ Brief Candle in the Dark - with Richard Dawkins. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2016. I'm a vegetarian, who eats fish (29:50)
  70. ^ New Humanist Nov/Dec 2012. (22 October 2012).
  71. ^ "Dr Alice Roberts: Anatomist, author, broadcaster and distinguished supporter of Humanism". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  72. ^ "Prof Alice Roberts". Eden TV. Retrieved 17 October 2015.