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Award winning scientist to open lecture series

Media release
17 July 2009

Award winning scientist and author will open Liggins Institute lecture series

Award winning scientist to open Liggins lecture series

Dr John Long is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, a prolific and highly respected scientist and science communicator. On 22 July he will deliver the opening lecture “Death, Sex and Evolution - 380 million year old fishes and the origins of the human body plan” in the Liggins Institute’s Seasons of Life public lecture series, which this year will focus on novel aspects of Evolution. He will also speak at a seminar for school teachers on teaching concepts in science to children.

Dr Long’s is a specialist in palaeontology (fossil fish and marsupial lions are among his discoveries) and dinosaurs. Last year he won the Australasian Science Prize for his discovery of the world’s oldest vertebrate embryos.

He has been collecting fossils since the age of seven and found his first dinosaur bones when he was a university student. His research interests and adventures have taken him to Antarctica, Africa, Asia, North America and Europe as well as every corner of Australia. He has named more than 50 new species of prehistoric creatures, published over 200 scientific papers and general science articles, and authored some 28 popular books, including ten for children, on evolution and pre-history.

His most recent major papers, all published in the prestigious journal Nature, helped solve some of the biggest problems in palaeontology: what killed the Australian dinosaurs, how fish contributed to the origins of the first land animals and the origins of sex in vertebrates.

He has also won the prestigious Eureka Prize for the Public Promotion of Science (2001) and the Riversleigh Society Medal for promoting understanding of Australia’s prehistoric past (2003).

Dr Long has written a number of books to introduce primary and lower secondary level children to basic concepts in science in an accessible and friendly style. Most notable is the award winning Big Picture Book series which describes Earth’s history and the evolution of life in geological time; the history of Earth’s climate and atmosphere and the effects of global warming on the many environments of our planet and, due next month, The Big Picture Book of Human Civilisations which sweeps through human history from 20,000 years ago to today and even into the future.

In this lecture he will draw on his own experiences to explain how perfectly preserved 3-dimensional fish fossils from the Kimberley region of Western Australia reveal the origins of vertebrate sex and an evolutionary pathway leading from pre-historic fishes to humans.

Further information:
Pandora Carlyon
Communications Manager, Liggins Institute
Tel (09) 923 2305; 021 565 715, email

Seasons of Life 2009: Darwin’s legacy

The Seasons of Life lecture series is an established part if the Liggins Institute’s programme to engage with its community to discuss issues which affect our health and society. The early evening lectures are designed for non-scientific audiences and questions are welcomed. They are free and open to the public but bookings are essential.

Refer to the Liggins website for details, This year’s series takes an eclectic look at evolution. Five distinguished speakers discuss aspects of Man’s evolution - from the origins of the human body plan to our instinctive love of art.

Venue for all lectures: Robb Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
85 Park Rd Grafton
Time: 6-7pm
The lectures:
22 July: Death, Sex and Evolution - 380 million year old fishes and the origins of the human body plan
Dr John Long, Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria, Melbourne
29 July: The Cousin Marriage Controversy – from Darwin to the US and Modern Britain
Professor Hamish Spencer, Head of Department of Zoology, The University of Otago

19 August: Evolution, Art, Science and Purpose
Professor Brian Boyd, Department of English, The University of Auckland

16 Sept: Darwin and Medicine
Professor Peter Gluckman FRS, Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland

7 October: The Art Instinct: why we evolved to love beauty
Professor Denis Dutton, Department of Philosophy, The University of Canterbury


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