UCL Division of Biosciences

Dr Adam Rutherford

Dr Adam Rutherford

Lecturer in Biology and Society

Genetics, Evolution & Environment

Div of Biosciences

Joined UCL
11th Jul 2014

Research summary

My interests are in evolution, genetics and developmental biology, and the history of biology. 


I have written extensively on Darwin, the development of evolutionary theory, the Modern Synthesis, early microscopy, synthetic biology and genetic engineering, behavioural ecology, gene-culture co-evolution, human evolution, and ancient DNA. My most recent work concerns the relationship between science and race, Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, and eugenics.


I am also interested in science communication, science media and the role of science in film, television and culture.


Teaching summary

BIOL0003: Introduction to Genetics (lectures on race and eugenics)


MBBS0056: Genetics, Development and Cancer (lectures on race, eugenics and medicine)


BIOS0021: Science Communication for Biologists (seminar and workshop for MSci Biological Sciences degree and postgraduates on the Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation MRes)



I joined the Galton Laboratory as an undergraduate in 1993, during which time I was involved in research projects relating to sexual selection and the developmental genetics of secondary sexual traits in the stalk-eyed fly Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni, with Kevin Fowler, Andrew Pomiankowski and Hazel Smith. I went on to do a PhD on the developmental genetics of the mammalian retina, at the Institute of Child Health (UCL/GOSH), supervised by Jane Sowden and Hazel Smith. In particular, we were investigating the role of the transcription factors genes Chx10 and Pax6, and disease phenotypes relating to mutations in these genes in mouse and humans. 


Following that I became an editor at the journal Nature, with various responsibilities, including editing the news, and launching and running their video and podcast content. I've also written extensively for the Guardian and other newspapers and magazines, and five books on genetics, evolution, the origin of life, synthetic biology, race and eugenics. For the BBC, I have written and presented several documentaries for television (including The Cell (2009), The Gene Code (2011), The Beauty of Anatomy (2016), and for BBC Radio 4, I present the weekly programme Inside Science, and the Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, with UCL mathematician Hannah Fry. I am currently an Honorary Research Fellow in the department of Genetics Evolution and Environment. 


I was scientific consultant on several movies, including Ex Machina (2015, Academy Award, Best Visual Effects), Annihilation (2017), DEVS (2020).