A V HILL Lecture – Recent controversies in evolutionary theory

Dr John Welch

  • 6 November 2023, 18:00 – 19:00
  • A V Hill Lecture Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre
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  • Event cost: Free
  • Disabled access?: Yes
  • Booking required: No



Every few years, critics of evolutionary theory have argued that the field needs a radical overhaul, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. This talk will discuss some recent challenges to core parts of evolutionary theory, focussing on the most serious and substantial challenges, which have come from evolutionary biologists themselves. I will trace many of these debates back to the contested legacy of R. A. Fisher (former head of the Department of Genetics in Cambridge), arguing that the reception of his work has cast long shadows. Throughout, the issues at stake will be illustrated with recent empirical work, especially from the Mexican cave tetra (Astyanax mexicanus), and the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. 


Dr Welch retrained as a biologist after a music degree and a job as a programmer. Following postdoctoral work at University of Sussex, University of Edinburgh and Université de Montpellier, John joined the Department of Genetics as a lecturer in 2010.

Dr Welch’s doctoral work was in mathematical population genetics, and this is still a large part of his research, but he now combines this with empirical approaches, especially evolutionary inference from microbial genealogies, and cross-species comparative analyses.

A.V. Hill Lecture

Archibald Vivian Hill (1886-1977) FRS was an English physiologist, one of the founders of the diverse disciplines of biophysics and operations research. He shared the 1922 Nobel Prize in Phusiology or Medicine for his elucidation of the production of heat and mechanical work in muscles. Hill is regarded, along with Hermann Helmholz, as one of the founders of biophysics.

The first AV Hill Lecture was delivered in 2013 by Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University.


Venue Details
Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre
Department of Chemistry
29 Lensfield Rd
Cambridge CB2 1ER
01223 336300
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