Steven Rose

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Steven Rose
Steven Peter Russell Rose

(1938-07-04) 4 July 1938 (age 85)
EducationKing's College, Cambridge
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
Known forCriticism of genetic determinism
(m. 1961)
ChildrenSimon and Ben[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsThe Open University
Gresham College, London
ThesisBiochemical consequence of L-DOPA administration to animals: implications for the treatment of Parkinson's disease (1961)

Steven Peter Russell Rose (born 4 July 1938)[2] is an English neuroscientist, author, and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of biology and neurobiology at the Open University and Gresham College, London.

Early life[edit]

Born in London, United Kingdom, he was brought up as an Orthodox Jew. Rose says that he decided to become an atheist when he was eight years old.[3] He went to a direct grant school in northwest London which operated a numerus clausus restricting the numbers of Jewish students. He studied biochemistry at King's College, Cambridge, and neurochemistry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.[4]

Academic career[edit]

Following a Fellowship at New College, Oxford, and a Medical Research Council research post, he was appointed to the professorship of biology at the newly instituted Open University in 1969. At the time he was Britain's youngest full professor and chair of the department. At the Open University he established the Brain Research Group, within which he and his colleagues investigated the biological processes involved in memory formation and treatments for Alzheimer's disease on which he has published some 300 research papers and reviews. He has written several popular science books and regularly writes for The Guardian newspaper and the London Review of Books. From 1999 to 2002, he gave public lectures as a Professor of Physick (Genetics and Society) with his wife, the feminist sociologist Hilary Rose at Gresham College, London. His work has won him numerous medals and prizes including the Biochemical Society medal for communication in science and the prestigious Edinburgh Medal in 2004. His book The Making of Memory won the Rhone-Poulenc Science Book Prize in 1993.[5] In 2012 the British Neuroscience Association gave him a lifetime award for "Outstanding contributions to neuroscience."[citation needed]

Together with Hilary Rose he was a founder member of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science in the 1960s, and more recently they have been instrumental in calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions for as long as Israel continues its occupation of the Palestinian Territories, on the grounds of Israeli academics' close relationship with the IDF. An open letter[6] initiated by Steven and Hilary Rose, and also signed by 123 other academics was published in The Guardian on 6 April 2002.[7] In 2004 Hilary Rose and he were the founding members of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine.[5][8]

Rose was for several years a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4's ethics debating series The Moral Maze.[4] He is a Distinguished Supporter of Humanists UK. He was part of the Royal Society's working group producing their Brain Waves modules on the state of neuroscience and its social framing, and was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Novel Neurotechnologies.[9] His recent books with Hilary Rose include Alas Poor Darwin: Arguments against Evolutionary Psychology, in 2012, Genes, Cells and Brains: the Promethean promises of the new biology (Verso), described by Guardian reviewer Steven Poole as 'fascinating, lucid and angry' with a 'lethally impressive hit ratio' and most recently Can Neuroscience Change Our Minds? (Polity, 2016). His audio-autobiography forms part of the British Library's National Life Stories Collection of distinguished scientists. The sociologist Nikolas Rose is his younger brother. Hilary and he have two sons. He remains an atheist.[10]

Critique of genetic determinism[edit]

With Richard Lewontin and Leon Kamin, Rose championed the "radical science movement".[11][12] The three criticized sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, and adaptationism, most prominently in the book Not in Our Genes (1984), laying out their opposition to Sociobiology (E. O. Wilson, 1975), The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins, 1976), and other works promoting an evolutionary explanation for human social behaviour. Not in Our Genes described Dawkins as "the most reductionist of sociobiologists". In retort, Dawkins wrote that the book practices a straw man fallacy by distorting arguments in terms of genetics to "an idiotic travesty (that the properties of a complex whole are simply the sum of those same properties in the parts)", and accused the authors of giving "ideology priority over truth".[13] Rose replied in the second edition of his book Lifelines. Rose wrote further works in this area: in 2000 he jointly edited with the sociologist Hilary Rose, a critique of evolutionary psychology entitled Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology. In 2006 he wrote a paper dismissing classical heritability estimates as useful scientific measures in respect of human populations especially in the context of IQ.[14]

Rose wrote the introduction of The Richness of Life (2007) by the prominent American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, Stephen Jay Gould.


Books (for selected papers see website

  • Chemical and Biological Warfare, 1968, Chambers Harrap Publishers, ISBN 024559485X
  • Science and Society, with Hilary Rose, Penguin, 1969
  • The Conscious Brain, 1973, ISBN 0-394-46066-9
  • Radicalisation of Science, with Hilary Rose, 1976, Macmillan, ISBN 0333211413
  • Political Economy of Science: Ideology of/in the Natural Science, Editor with Hilary Rose, 1976, Macmillan, ISBN 0333211383
  • Towards a Liberatory Biology (Editor) 1981, Allison & Busby, ISBN 0850314259
  • Against Biological Determinism (Editor), 1982, Schocken, ISBN 0805281126
  • Not in Our Genes (With Richard Lewontin & Leon Kamin) 1984, ISBN 0-394-72888-2
  • No Fire, No Thunder: Threat of Chemical and Biological Weapons, with Sean Murphy and Alistair Hay, 1984, Pluto Press, ISBN 0861047389
  • The Chemistry of Life, 1991 (first published in 1966), ISBN 0-14-027273-9
  • The Making of Memory, 1992, ISBN 0-593-01990-3
  • Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments against Evolutionary Psychology, with Hilary Rose, 2000, ISBN 0-609-60513-5
  • Lifelines, 2005, ISBN 0-09-946863-8
  • The 21st Century Brain, 2005, ISBN 0-224-06254-9
  • The Future of the Brain: The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow's Neuroscience, 2005, ISBN 0-19-515420-7
  • Genes, Cells and Brains: Bioscience's Promethean Promises, with Hilary Rose, 2012, Verso, ISBN 1844678814
  • Can Neuroscience Change Our Minds? , with Hilary Rose, 2016, Polity, ISBN 978-0-7456-8931-9

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Brown, Andrew (15 December 2001). "The Guardian Profile - Steven Rose". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  2. ^ 'ROSE, Prof. Steven Peter Russell', Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 6 Aug 2013
  3. ^ Rose, Steven P. (2007). "In the Beginning". In Holloway, Richard (ed.). Revelations: Personal Responses to the Books of the Bible. Canongate Books. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84195-737-1. Did the editors of this series of volumes of the King James realise that I was an ex-Orthodox Jew, an atheist and a biologist to boot when they suggested that I write this introduction?
  4. ^ a b Biography at The Moral Maze.
  5. ^ a b "Biography". Steven Rose Online. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Open Letter: More pressure for Mid East peace". The Guardian. 6 April 2002.
  7. ^ Beckett, Andy; MacAskill, Ewen (12 December 2002). "British academic boycott of Israel gathers pace". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "BRICUP UK tour Dec 09". BRICUP. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Neurotechnology - About the Working Party | Nuffield Council on Bioethics". Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.[full citation needed]
  10. ^ Lifeline: Steven Rose, The Lancet Vol. 355 Issue 9213 p. 1472, 22 April 2000.
  11. ^ Rose, Steven Peter Russell; Lewontin, Richard Charles; Kamin, Leon J. (1984). Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature. p. ix. ISBN 978-0-14-022605-8.
  12. ^ Jay Joseph, PsyD (4 April 2018). "Endnotes for "Leon J. Kamin (1927-2017): A Nemesis of Genetic Determinism and Scientific Racism"" (PDF). Mad In America. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  13. ^ Bateson, Patrick; Dawkins, Richard (24 January 1985). "Sociobiology: the debate continues". New Scientist. 105 (1440): 28–60.
  14. ^ Rose, Steven P R (2006). "Commentary: Heritability estimates—long past their sell-by date". International Journal of Epidemiology. 35 (3): 525–7. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl064. PMID 16645027.

External links[edit]