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History of Life

The renowned popular author and distinguished palaeontologist Richard Fortey, who is also currently President of The Geological Society of London, returned to his favourite theme with this opening lecture in the London Lecture Series. Recalling his successful book, Life – an unauthorised biography, Dr Fortey used beautiful illustrations of fossil material to describe the origin and evolution of life on our planet.
The earth and life have evolved together. The activities of microorganisms altered the earth's atmosphere so that animals could eventually prosper. More and more habitats were colonised by animals and plants, so that the story of life is one of progressive enrichment. Yet setbacks like major extinctions altered the course of life's history. It is a story rich in drama, which should make us humans aware of the extraordinary circumstances that allowed our eventual appearance on the planet.


Richard Fortey (NHM)


Since getting his PhD from Cambridge in 1971 Richard Fortey has spent 35 years working at the National History Museum in London, where he has pursued an active research career on palaeontology (especially trilobites and graptolites) and on Ordovician geology. He has published close on two hundred research papers, and the significance of his contribution was recognised by his election to the Royal Society in 1997.

Richard was awarded the Lyell Medal of the Society in 1996, and has served as Vice President 1991-2. He was first author on the Ordovician Correlation Chart published 2000, and has sat on the Awards Committee on several occasions. Outside the society, he has served on the NERC Research Grants committee, Council of the Royal Society, and has been President of the Palaeontological Association. He received the senior medal of the Zoological Society of London (2001) in recognition of his research and the Lewis Thomas Prize of Rockefeller University (2003) in recognition of his popular writing.