Stephen Emmott

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Stephen Emmott
Stephen Emmott.jpg
speaking in 2006
Stephen Emmott

(1960-06-03) 3 June 1960 (age 62)[1]
Alma materUniversity of York (BSc)
University of Stirling (PhD)
Known forMicrosoft
Ten Billion[2]
Scientific career
Biological computation
Computational science
ThesisThe visual processing of text (1993)

Stephen Emmott (born 3 June 1960) is a British scientist, entrepreneur and chief scientist of Scientific.[4][5] Emmott was named one of London's most influential scientists, and one of the most influential people in London by the Evening Standard in 2012.[6]


Emmott studied at the University of York, where he completed a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences (experimental psychology), graduating in 1987 with First Class honours.

He obtained a PhD in computational neuroscience from the Centre for Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, University of Stirling in 1993, supervised by Professor Roger Watt. Having been deeply influenced and inspired by the work of David Marr and David Rumelhart, Emmott's doctoral research focused on modelling and understanding the computations the brain performs to produce vision. He chose the visual processing of text because it is the canonical example of a physical structure designed around how the brain works, rather than the other way round.[7]


After obtaining his PhD., Emmott took up a post-doctoral scientist position at AT&T Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J, US, between 1993 and 1996. He worked in Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias's division, undertaking research into biological-inspired computing, applied to some of the earliest medical, financial and e-commerce applications of the Internet.

Emmott returned to London in January 1997 to lead the advanced research laboratory of NCR Corp (which then owned teradata). His work and the work of his Laboratory became recognised for numerous innovations at the intersection of science, technology and finance. This included the invention of Agent-based Internet auctions,[8] the digital wallet[9] and a biologically-inspired, probabilistic method to predict the behaviour of financial markets.[10]


In 2003, Emmott joined Microsoft as chief scientist, and head of computational science.[11] Emmott's vision was ‘to pioneer new computational methods, tools and technologies to enable new kinds of science and accelerate radical solutions to the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of our time.’

Emmott's scientific leadership created numerous scientific and technological advances. These include the new science of biological computation and ‘Living Software’;[12][11][13][14] programmable Artificial Photosynthesis as a potentially breakthrough cheap, global energy technology;[15][16] the world's first predictive mechanistic model of all life on Earth (General Ecosystem Model);[17][18][19] the first mechanistic model of the Global Carbon Cycle;[20] and the development of a computational platform enabling hyper-parallelisation of the Scientific Method (e.g.,[21]).


In 2019, Emmott created Scientific,[5] a new science and technology company dedicated to creating transformational science-based innovation that generates a step-change in returns for investors, and genuinely radical global impact outcomes.

Public service[edit]

From 2005 to 2010, Emmott was scientific advisor to the Chancellor of The Exchequer. He was a member of the UK Government's 10 Year Science & Innovation Framework Committee, 2004. He was appointed by the UK government Minister for Science as a trustee of the UK's National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts, 2008–2012. He was an adviser to the Finnish Prime Minister's Science & Innovation Strategy, 2008. Emmott is Professor of Biological Computation, University College London, and was Professor of Computational Science (visiting), University of Oxford, 2007–2014.

Ten Billion[edit]

Emmott is author of 10 Billion.[22][23][24][25] It is about the climate, ecological, agricultural, resource, pollution, energy, migration and geo-political impact of a human population of 10 Billion.

Royal Court

10 Billion began as ‘a new kind of scientific lecture’, delivered by Emmott, over twenty nights at London's Royal Court Theatre, directed by Katie Mitchell.[22] It won widespread critical acclaim. Sarah Hemming of the Financial Times described it as ‘immensely, distressingly powerful’ and ‘one of the most disturbing evenings I’ve ever spent in a Theatre’.[26] The Guardian's Michael Billington stated that “what is impressive is that Professor Emmott argues his case with an implacable logic. He is quiet, humane and deeply concerned and when he says, at the end, "I think we're fucked" you have to believe him.”[27] Ten Billion was named as ‘Theatrical Performance of the Year’ in 2012 by The Guardian.


10 Billion was published as a book in 2013.[23]

The Guardian's John Gray concluded that, “The shift in thinking that will be needed if we are to prepare ourselves for living in a different world begins with reading Emmott's indispensable book.”[28] Clive Cookson of the Financial Times said the book was “a stark, simple and short warning about the coming catastrophe, which [Emmott] feels is inevitable, resulting from human population [growing from 7bn to 10 Billion] and over-exploitation of the world’s resources.”[29] In a review of 10 Billion in Nature, Hania Zlotnik noted: “His slim, even terse book [presenting] his view on the “unprecedented planetary emergency we've created” — primarily examines the transformation of the global environment by human activity, a transformation that includes climate change, increasing water shortages and growing urbanization. Emmott's assessment of the capacity of people and technology to prevent the global crises that confront us is grim.”[30]

On the Guardian’s environment network, Chris Goodall called it "error-strewn, full of careless exaggeration and weak on basic science.”[31]


10 Billion was made into a feature-length documentary film, produced by Oxford Film & Television[25] directed by Peter Webber. It was supported financially by Ingenious Media, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Sky Atlantic, HanWay Films and the Roland Mouret Foundation. It was premiered at London's Curzon cinema in December 2015, and screened at cinemas worldwide. Subsequently, it premiered on Sky Atlantic in 2016.


  1. ^ "EMMOTT, Stephen". Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  2. ^ "Ten Billion".
  3. ^ "Scientific".
  4. ^ "Is it too late to save the planet?". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Scientific". Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  6. ^ "London's 1000 most influential people 2012: Innovators, Scientists". Evening Standard. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  7. ^ Emmott, Stephen J. (1993). The visual processing of text (Ph.D. thesis). University of Stirling. hdl:1893/1837.
  8. ^ US 6871190, Seymour, Mark & Emmott, Stephen J., "System and method for conducting an electronic auction over an open communications network", published 2005-03-22, assigned to NCR Corp. 
  9. ^ US 6424845, Emmott, Stephen J.; Woods, Sarah & Johnson, Graham I., "Portable communication device", published 2002-07-23, assigned to NCR Corp. 
  10. ^ US 6480832, Nakisa, Ramin C., "Method and apparatus to model the variables of a data set", published 2002-11-12, assigned to NCR Corp. 
  11. ^ a b Heger, M. (2010). "Tech meets bio: software and technology companies have increasingly been taking a more active role in biological research: Roni Zeiger, Michael Montalto, Ajay Royyuru and Stephen Emmott" (PDF). Nature Medicine. 16 (8): 844–847. doi:10.1038/nm0810-844. PMID 20689541. S2CID 205381392.
  12. ^ "Programming Life: Living Software - Stephen Emmott - PICNIC '10". Vimeo. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  13. ^ Lakin, M. R.; Youssef, S.; Polo, F.; Emmott, S.; Phillips, A. (2011). "Visual DSD: A design and analysis tool for DNA strand displacement systems". Bioinformatics. 27 (22): 3211–3213. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btr543. PMC 3208393. PMID 21984756.
  14. ^ Dalchau, N.; Smith, M. J.; Martin, S.; Brown, J. R.; Emmott, S.; Phillips, A. (2012). "Towards the rational design of synthetic cells with prescribed population dynamics". Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 9 (76): 2883–2898. doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0280. PMC 3479904. PMID 22683525.
  15. ^ Creatore, C.; Parker, M. A.; Emmott, S.; Chin, A. W. (18 December 2013). "Efficient Biologically Inspired Photocell Enhanced by Delocalized Quantum States". Physical Review Letters. 111 (25): 253601. arXiv:1307.5093. Bibcode:2013PhRvL.111y3601C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.253601. PMID 24483744. S2CID 35661971.
  16. ^ Hemmig, Elisa A.; Creatore, Celestino; Wünsch, Bettina; Hecker, Lisa; Mair, Philip; Parker, M. Andy; Emmott, Stephen; Tinnefeld, Philip; Keyser, Ulrich F. (13 April 2016). "Programming Light-Harvesting Efficiency Using DNA Origami". Nano Letters. 16 (4): 2369–2374. Bibcode:2016NanoL..16.2369H. doi:10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b05139. ISSN 1530-6984. PMC 5003508. PMID 26906456.
  17. ^ Purves, D.; Scharlemann, J.; Harfoot, M.; Newbold, T.; Tittensor, D. P.; Hutton, J.; Emmott, S. (2013). "Ecosystems: Time to model all life on Earth". Nature. 493 (7432): 295–297. Bibcode:2013Natur.493..295P. doi:10.1038/493295a. PMID 23325192. S2CID 4404544.
  18. ^ Purves, Drew W.; Scharlemann, Jörn P. W.; Smith, Matthew J.; Lyutsarev, Vassily; Hutton, Jon; Emmott, Stephen; Tittensor, Derek P.; Newbold, Tim; Harfoot, Michael B. J. (22 April 2014). "Emergent Global Patterns of Ecosystem Structure and Function from a Mechanistic General Ecosystem Model". PLOS Biology. 12 (4): e1001841. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001841. ISSN 1545-7885. PMC 3995663. PMID 24756001.
  19. ^ "This rare GEM can model our world". Financial Times. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  20. ^ Smith, M. J.; Purves, D. W.; Vanderwel, M. C.; Lyutsarev, V.; Emmott, S. (29 January 2013). "The climate dependence of the terrestrial carbon cycle, including parameter and structural uncertainties". Biogeosciences. 10 (1): 583–606. Bibcode:2013BGeo...10..583S. doi:10.5194/bg-10-583-2013. ISSN 1726-4189.
  21. ^ Yordanov, Boyan; Dunn, Sara-Jane; Kugler, Hillel; Smith, Austin; Martello, Graziano; Emmott, Stephen (7 July 2016). "A method to identify and analyze biological programs through automated reasoning". npj Systems Biology and Applications. 2: 16010. doi:10.1038/npjsba.2016.10. ISSN 2056-7189. PMC 5034891. PMID 27668090.
  22. ^ a b "Ten Billion". Royal Court. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  23. ^ a b Emmott, Stephen (2013). 10 billion. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780141976327. OCLC 829960881.
  24. ^ "10 Billion". Hanway Films. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  25. ^ a b "Oxford Films - Ten Billion". Oxford Films. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  26. ^ "Ten Billion, Royal Court Upstairs, London". Financial Times. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  27. ^ Billington, Michael (19 July 2012). "Ten Billion – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  28. ^ Gray, John (5 July 2013). "Population 10 Billion by Danny Dorling and Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  29. ^ "Crowded Planet". Financial Times. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  30. ^ Zlotnik, Hania (4 September 2013). "Population: Crowd control". Nature. 501 (7465): 30–31. Bibcode:2013Natur.501...30Z. doi:10.1038/501030a. ISSN 1476-4687.
  31. ^ Goodall, Chris (9 July 2013). "Stephen Emmott's 10 billion book is unscientific and misanthropic". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 August 2019.