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    Archive for the 'Life Sciences' Category

    SEVEN the play

    By Siobhan Pipa, on 11 March 2015

    Professor Peter Brocklehurst at SEVEN  (Courtesy of Ben Sharman)

    Professor Peter Brocklehurst at SEVEN
    (Courtesy of Ben Sharman)

    As part of a series of events to celebrate International Women’s Day at UCL, the UCL Institute for Women’s Health put on a special production of SEVEN – a documentary play based on the lives of seven inspirational women from seven countries around the world.

    Presented as a reading, seven of the most senior men at UCL lent their voices to the female activists: Professor Michael Arthur (UCL President & Provost), Professor Sir John Tooke (Vice Provost, Health and Head of UCL School of Life & Medical Sciences), Professor David Lomas (Vice Provost-elect, Health and Dean of Medical Sciences), Professor Anthony Smith (Vice Provost, Education & Student Affairs), Professor Alejandro Madrigal (Pro Vice Provost for the America’s), Professor Peter Brocklehurst (Director, UCL Institute for Women’s Health) and Professor Anthony Costello (Pro Vice Provost for Africa & the Middle East and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health).

    The play, which was directed by Tove Eriksson and organised by Asma Ashraf and Professor Judith Stephenson (UCL Institute for Women’s Health), depicts how these women overcame extreme adversity to become leaders for women’s rights, both within their own society and globally.

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    We don’t know if God evolved, but belief did

    By Rebecca L Caygill, on 21 January 2015

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    Written by Rebecca Caygill, Media Relations Manager

    How and when did organised religion begin? It’s a big question and one that Professor Steve Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) set out to answer before a packed Darwin Lecture Theatre last week in his Lunch Hour Lecture, ‘Did God evolve?’, on 20 January.

    After clarifying that he didn’t actually know if God evolved, Professor Jones spoke about where religion began and where science predicts it is heading, based on evidence. Starting with farming, he took us on an enlightening and amusing trip through the history of the evolution of religion.

    Evidence for the link between religion and farming goes back thousand of years not only in fertility rites for crops, but also to the story of Adam and Eve who were expelled from Eden to “till the ground”.

    Adam and Eve, St Mary's Eastham, Wirral Credit: Sue Hacker on Flickr

    Adam and Eve, St Mary’s Eastham, Wirral
    Credit: Sue Hacker on Flickr

    From studying maps of the Holy Land overlaid with modern locations, there may be truth in biblical texts about places such as the Land of Nod, where scientists have found farming originated with pigs, sheep, cattle and goats.

    With farming came an explosion in the population, which moved to the east and west, changing language along the way. Language is constantly evolving at the same rate – to notice changes within our own lifetimes, we only need to listen to old TV or radio recordings.

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    The 2014 Lancet Lecture – The half-life of caste: The ill-health of a nation

    By Kilian Thayaparan, on 26 November 2014

    Arundhati Roy speaking at the 2014 Lancet Lecture

    Arundhati Roy speaking at the 2014 Lancet Lecture.
    Credit: Kirsten Holst.

    More than 700 people were in attendance for the 2014 Lancet Lecture, this year given by acclaimed novelist and political activist Arundhati Roy.

    The Institute of Education’s Logan Hall – this year’s host venue – was already reaching near full capacity when I arrived. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement, with attendees moving from one area of the room to another as they attempted to find the best possible vantage point.

    Considering Roy’s numerous notable achievements and accomplishments, it’s easy to see why this particular Lancet Lecture had generated so much interest – in 1997, she won the Booker Prize for Fiction with her novel The God of Small Things, and she has since written several political pieces on issues ranging from large dams to nuclear weapons.

    For the 2014 Lancet Lecture, Roy focused on the practice of caste in India and how it received support from many of those who led India’s struggle for independence. Her comments in the past have gained unfavourable attention in India, often opinionated and controversial, and Roy’s talk on caste would be no different; “If these things shock and disturb you, all I can say is that they shocked and disturbed me too”.

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    Eugenics. What does the word mean? What is its genesis? And more importantly, what is its legacy?

    By Guest Blogger, on 7 November 2014

    pencil-icon Written by Natalie Clue, Human Genetics BSc

    Eugenics tree, 1921

    Eugenics tree, 1921. Credit: American Philosophical Society.

    I write this post after a whirlwind introduction to the discipline of eugenics and its inextricable connection to our university, upon reading an article written by Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, recently published in Times Higher Education. In a matter of weeks, I came to learn much more about the dark legacy of the celebrated figurehead in which our university takes immense pride: Francis Galton.

    He is lauded as a polymath and eminent scientist who worked on biostatistics and human genetics, as well as a traveller and inventor of scientific instruments and a contributor to the subjects of meteorology and criminology. He was also the founding father of eugenics.

    I learnt that the word eugenics is derived from the Greek word eu (‘good’ or ‘well’) and the suffix –genēs (‘born’), and that it was coined by Galton in 1883. I learnt that his definition of eugenics was “the study of the agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations“.

    I also came to discover that a prime motivation for the research which led to many of the ‘achievements’ noted above was the motivation to determine what constituted ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ traits among the peoples of the world, to legitimise the theory of racial supremacy – with the ‘Aryan’ race being the ‘master’ of all and the ‘Negro’ being the least of the ‘lesser’ – and to classify these ‘lesser’ races as non-occidental or ‘other’.

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