Steve Jones (biologist)

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Steve Jones
Steve Jones.png
Steve Jones (2012)
Born John Stephen Jones
(1944-03-24) 24 March 1944 (age 72)
Aberystwyth, Wales
Residence Camden, London
Nationality Welsh [1]
Fields Genetics
Institutions University College London
University of Edinburgh
University of Chicago
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Thesis Studies on the ecological genetics of Cepaea (1972)
Known for Author, journalist and broadcaster furthering public understanding of science
Influences Bryan Clarke
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society (2012) [2]
2006 Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year by the National Secular Society
Spouse Norma Percy

UCL staff web-page

Royal Society web-page

John Stephen Jones FRS[2] (born 24 March 1944) is a Welsh geneticist and from 1995 to 1999 and 2008 to June 2010 was Head of the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.[3][4] His studies are conducted in the Galton Laboratory. He is also a television presenter and a prize-winning author on the subject of biology, especially evolution. He is one of the contemporary popular writers on evolution. In 1996 his writing won him the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize "for his numerous, wide ranging contributions to the public understanding of science in areas such as human evolution and variation, race, sex, inherited disease and genetic manipulation through his many broadcasts on radio and television, his lectures, popular science books, and his regular science column in The Daily Telegraph and contributions to other newspaper media".

Early life[edit]

Jones was born in Aberystwyth, Wales, to Thomas Gwilym Jones and Lydia Anne Jones, his parents having met as students at the University of Aberystwyth. Until he was about ten years old the family were accommodated alternately at his paternal grandparents' house in New Quay, Ceredigion, and his maternal grandparents' house near Aberystwyth. Later the family moved to the Wirral, returning to Wales for their holidays.[5]

Jones' paternal grandfather and great grandfather were both sea captains. Jones' father, a PhD chemist, worked on detergents such as Jif.[6] Dylan Thomas was an acquaintance of his father. As a child Jones often stayed at his paternal grandparents' home and spent a lot of his time in the attic which contained some seafaring equipment, and boxes of books covering a wide variety of topics, many of which Jones read.[5] He also went to libraries and by the age of 14 years he had read all the works of Charles Dickens.[7] As a child in Ceredigion Jones spoke a lot of Welsh until he was 6 or 7 years old, and as a keen observer of local wildlife was particularly interested in birds.[5][8] Jones was a pupil at Wirral Grammar School for Boys.[9] At the age of 13 to 14 years old Jones was inspired to study biology by a school teacher.[7]

Academic career[edit]

Jones was rejected by all the Welsh universities, so he applied to the University of Edinburgh for an undergraduate degree, which had a closing date seven days later, and he was accepted onto a zoology undergraduate course.[7] He stayed on in Edinburgh to do research for a Doctor of Philosophy degree on the ecological genetics of Cepaea, a snail whose shell is polymorphic in colour pattern, making it a model organism for evolutionary biologists.[10][11] He developed an interest in snails from the late Bryan Clarke, one of his teachers at Edinburgh and subsequently professor of genetics at the University of Nottingham.[7] After his PhD, Jones also completed post-doctoral research into the genetics of Drosophila at the University of Chicago to widen his experience.[7] Much of Jones' research has been concerned with snails and the light their study can shed on biodiversity and genetics.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Jones' life partner since 1977 has been the award-winning American documentary maker Norma Percy, they married in 2013.[20][21]

Jones is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He was awarded the second Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year by the National Secular Society on 7 October 2006. On 1 January 2011 he became President of The Association for Science Education.[22]

Claims and opinions[edit]

Human evolution[edit]

Jones' view that in humans "Natural selection has to some extent been repealed" [23] dates back at least to 1991 and has been the focus of a number of newspaper reports and radio interviews.[24][25][26] Referring to the title of a public lecture entitled "Is human Evolution Over?" he stated "For those of you who have a train to catch, the answer is "yes", so you can leave now".[27]

His views are largely based on his claim that reduced juvenile mortality, decreasing age of fathers, and decreased geographical isolation of populations in Western societies reduce evolution. Both the data supporting these assertions and his views of the way these factors influence evolution in populations have been extensively criticised by other academics. [28][29][30][31][32][33]

Molecular studies repeatedly show selection in humans for cognitive and physical factors: For instance for resistance to cold.[34]

Private education[edit]

In an interview on the BBC Radio 5 show '5 Live Breakfast' hosted by Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty on 13 January 2009, Jones described private schools as a "cancer on the education system".[35] Jones cites private schools as one of the reasons that Britain remains as socially stratified as it is. Among the advantages in private schools compared to state schools, Jones listed smaller classroom sizes, highly trained teachers, better facilities, and coaching through university interviews.[35]


Jones, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published on 15 September 2010 in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[36] Jones has also stated that creationism is "anti-science" and criticised creationists such as Ken Ham. Jones suggested in a BBC Radio Ulster interview in 2006 that Creationists should be disallowed from being medical doctors because "all of its (Creationism's) claims fly in the face of the whole of science" and he further claimed that no serious biologist can believe in biblical creation. For Jones, 'evolution is the grammar of biology'.[37] Jones elaborated on his full position on creationism in a public lecture entitled 'Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right'.[38]

Global warming[edit]

In July 2011, Jones produced a report dealing with science reporting issues at the BBC. He was critical of the BBC for giving too much space and credence to maverick views on science,[39] including sceptics of anthropogenic global warming.[40]

Science and the media[edit]

Jones was commissioned by the BBC trust to write a report on the organisation's science reporting, which was published in July 2011. This was broadly supportive of the BBC's accuracy, impartiality and science coverage although it also made a number of suggestions. These included better interaction of staff across the organization on science topics and in particular an end to "false balance". Jones describes "[a]ttempts to give a place to anyone, however unqualified, who claims interest can make for false balance: to free publicity to marginal opinions and not to impartiality, but its opposite". The BBC's response to the recommendations was generally positive, several of which it immediately implemented.

Jones was the 1991 Reith Lecturer on BBC Radio, with a series entitled The Language of the Genes, the basis of his 1993 book of the same name.[41]

He presented In the Blood, a six-part TV series on human genetics first broadcast in 1996, see book of same name in bibliography.

Selected publications[edit]




  1. ^ "Eminent geneticist Steve Jones to give talk on Alfred Russel Wallace". BBC. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Professor Steve Jones FRS | Royal Society". Archived from the original on 2012-04-20. 
  3. ^ "Academic Staff at UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment". University College London. 2009-09-15. 
  4. ^ UCL GEE News GEE marks the transfer of headship
  5. ^ a b c "The House I Grew Up In with Steve Jones as participant". The House I Grew Up In. 2009-09-15. BBC. BBC Radio 4. 
  6. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - The Life Scientific, Steve Jones interviewed Jim Al-Khalili". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Desert Island Discs with Steve Jones". Desert Island Discs. 1 March 1992. BBC. Radio 4. 
  8. ^ "The Forum; At the British Museum - The Inner Life of Objects". The Forum. 2010-01-24. BBC. BBC World Service. 
  9. ^ "Alumni". Wirral Grammar School. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Jones, John Stephen (1971). Studies on the Ecological Genetics of Cepaea (PhD thesis). University of Edinburgh. 
  11. ^ Jones, J. S. (1973). "Ecological genetics of a population of the snail Cepaea nemoralis at the northern limit of its range". Heredity. 31 (2): 201–211. doi:10.1038/hdy.1973.75. PMID 4521375. 
  12. ^ Jones, C. S.; Noble, L. R.; Jones, J. S.; Tegelstrom, H.; Triggs, G. S.; Berry, R. J. (1995). "Differential Male Genetic Success Determines Gene Flow in an Experimentally Manipulated Mouse Population". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 260 (1359): 251–256. doi:10.1098/rspb.1995.0088. PMID 7630894. 
  13. ^ Jones, J. S. (1987). "The heritability of fitness: Bad news for 'good genes'?". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 2 (2): 35–38. doi:10.1016/0169-5347(87)90096-6. PMID 21227813. 
  14. ^ Jones, J. S. (1988). "Gaps in fossil teeth: Saltations or sampling errors?". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 3 (8): 208–213. doi:10.1016/0169-5347(88)90009-2. PMID 21227203. 
  15. ^ Jones, C. S.; Noble, L. R.; Jones, J. S.; Tegelstrom, H.; Triggs, G. S.; Berry, R. J. (1995). "Differential Male Genetic Success Determines Gene Flow in an Experimentally Manipulated Mouse Population". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 260 (1359): 251–256. doi:10.1098/rspb.1995.0088. PMID 7630894. 
  16. ^ h.Cowie, R.; Jones, J. S. (1998). "Gene frequency changes in Cepaea snails on the Marlborough Downs over 25 years". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 65 (3): 233. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1998.tb01141.x. 
  17. ^ Jones, S. (2006). "Health, Genes, & Environment: Prosperous People, Penurious Genes". Science. 314 (5807): 1879–1871. doi:10.1126/science.1136273. 
  18. ^ Harris, D. J.; Jones, J. S. (1995). "Genotype-specific habitat selection and thermal ecology in Nucella lapillus (L.) (the dogwhelk)". Heredity. 74 (3): 311. doi:10.1038/hdy.1995.45. 
  19. ^ "Fellows details". Royal Society. Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  20. ^ JONES, Prof. (John) Stephen, Who's Who 2011, A & C Black, 2011; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2010 ; online edn, Oct 2010 accessed 22 May 2011
  21. ^ "profile: Steve Jones: Almost like Darwin?". The Independent. London. 15 June 1997. 
  22. ^ "ASE President". The Association for Science Education. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  23. ^ Stevens, William K (March 14, 1995). "Evolution of Humans May at Last Be Faltering". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ BBC Radio 4 Today programme and BBC Five Live on 7 October 2008
  25. ^ Belluz, Julia (October 7, 2008). "Leading geneticist Steve Jones says human evolution is over". The Times. London. 
  26. ^ McKie, Robin (February 3, 2002). "Is human evolution finally over?". The Observer. London. 
  27. ^ Jones, S. (2009). Steve Jones Enlightenment Lecture - Is Human Evolution Over?. Video on YouTube
  28. ^ "Human evolution stopping? Wrong, wrong, wrong". 
  29. ^ "No Virginia, evolution isn't ending". 
  30. ^ "Evolution, why it still happens (in pictures)". 
  31. ^ "Steven Jones is being silly". 
  32. ^ "Not the end of evolution again!". 
  33. ^ "Some comments on Steve Jones and human evolution". 
  34. ^ A. M. Hancock, V. J. Clark, Y. Qian and A. Di Rienzo. (2011). Population genetic analysis of the uncoupling proteins supports a role for UCP3 in human cold resistance. Mol Biol Evol, 28, 601-14
  35. ^ a b BBC Radio 5 Live: Breakfast, broadcast 13 January 2009
  36. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  37. ^ Steve Jones radio interview on "Sunday Sequence" - BBC Radio Ulster 19-03-06
  38. ^ Steve Jones - Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right, Royal Society public lecture, April 2006
  39. ^ Sample, Ian (20 July 2011). "BBC gives too much weight to fringe views...". London: The Guardian. Retrieved September 11, 2012. 
  40. ^ Booker, Christopher (23 July 2011). "Steve Jones tells the BBC: don't give 'denialists' so much air-time". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  41. ^ BBC website Historic Reith Lectures

External links[edit]