The Dalton Lecture – What is life?
Royal Northern College of Music
8th March 2023
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Multi-award-winning scientist Sir Paul Nurse considers the most fundamental question in biology, “What is Life?”
In a highly anticipated talk, Sir Paul will seek to answer this profound question by first exploring five great ideas in biology:
The cell – the fundamental unit of all living things
The gene – how do cells store, preserve and pass on information?
Evolution by natural selection – how is genetic information accurately transmitted to subsequent generations, whilst at the same time introducing sufficient variability for natural selection to operate and for new species to arise?
Life as chemistry – how do cells host myriad simultaneous chemical reactions in a minute space? What is the central role of carbon polymer chemistry?
Life as information – how do cells and organisms regulate and coordinate their internal environment? And how do they respond to stimuli and conditions in their external environment?
From consideration of these five fundamental concepts, Sir Paul will relate a number of principles which set a direction of travel towards a definition of life – something that requires more than just a description of what living things do.
His book “What is Life” has been published in 22 countries. Paul Nurse is a geneticist and cell biologist who works on how the eukaryotic cell cycle is controlled. His major work has been on the cyclin dependent protein kinases and how they regulate cell reproduction. He is Director of the Francis Crick Institute in London, Chancellor of the University of Bristol, and has served as President of the Royal Society, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK and President of Rockefeller University.
Paul shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and has received the Albert Lasker Award, the Gairdner Award, the Louis Jeantet Prize and the Royal Society’s Royal and Copley Medals. He was knighted in 1999 and made a Companion of Honour and subsequently admitted to the Order of Merit in 2022, for services to science and medicine in the UK and abroad. Paul also received the Legion d’honneur in 2003 from France, and the Order of the Rising Sun in 2018 from Japan. He served for 15 years on the UK Council of Science and Technology, advising the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was a Chief Scientific Advisor for the European Union