The presenter of the BBC’s The Incredible Human Journey gives us a new and highly accessible look at our own bodies, allowing us to understand how we develop as an embryo, from a single egg into a complex body, and how our embryos contain echoes of our evolutionary past.
Bringing together the latest scientific discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts illustrates that evolution has made something which is far from perfect. Our bodies are a quirky mix of new and old, with strokes of genius alongside glitches and imperfections which are all inherited from distant ancestors. Our development and evolutionary past explains why, as embryos, we have what look like gills, and as adults we suffer from back pain.
This is a tale of discovery, not only exploring why and how we have developed as we have, but also looking at the history of our anatomical understanding. It combines the remarkable skills and qualifications Alice Roberts has as a doctor, anatomist, osteoarchaeologist and writer. Above all, she has a rare ability to make science accessible, relevant and interesting to mainstream audiences and readers.
Alice Roberts has just described how as five-week old embryos we all have gill arches – but thankfully none of us end up as fish. The watery origins of the voice box is just one among many fascinating chapters in The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and The Making of Us, the anatomist and anthropologist’s new book.
Alice Roberts at the Institute of Education, London (Feb 2014)
BRISTOL broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts is one of more than 50 public figures who have signed an open letter challenging David Cameron’s assertion that Britain is a Christian country.
should you find yourself in the natural history museum between now and the end of september, wander past the diplodocus to the back of the central hall and turn left to make your way to the jerwood gallery. in there, you’ll find an astonishing collection of stone tools, cut-marked bones and other evidence of the one million years of human habitation in Britain.
i was in there last week, and found myself face to face with a neanderthal. he’s a very real-looking neanderthal. he’s shorter than me, very stocky, and although he’s got a deep brown tan on his face, arms and upper chest, the rest of his torso, usually covered up with clothes in the cold north, is pale. his dark, coarse hair is pulled back under a strip of leather. i got quite close to this neanderthal, until i saw the texture of his skin and the glint in his eye, and i was ever so slightly afraid that he was going to blink. neanderthals, of course, were in Britain long before modern humans – homo sapiens – arrived.