Professor Richard Dawkins

Perhaps no book has quite so forthrightly, fearlessly and ‘scientifically’ challenged established religion and belief in a supernatural God as The God Delusion.  When published, it electrified the debate to the extent that, improbably, it led to a 120% increase in sales of the Bible on Amazon.  It can also be said to have created a new genre of pro-religion books that have responded in a number of ways to the author’s central argument that belief in God is both irrational and profoundly harmful to society. 

Professor Richard Dawkins was the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.

Richard Dawkins. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

A graduate of Oxford, he did his doctorate under the Nobel-prizewinning ethologist Niko Tinbergen. In 1967 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley, returning to Oxford in 1969. He has been a Fellow of New College since 1970.

His first book, The Selfish Gene (1976; second edition, 1989) became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into all the major languages. The Blind Watchmaker (1986) won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the Los Angeles Times Prize, both in 1987. He has lectured all around the world and continues to do so, and in 1991 he gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in London.

The God Delusion (2006), has achieved greater sales figures worldwide than any of his other works to date.  Among them River out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable 1996), Unweaving the Rainbow (1998), The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) and The Magic of Reality (2011). 

His documentary films are The Root of All Evil? (2006), The Enemies of Reason (2007), The Genius of Charles Darwin (2008) and Faith School Menace (2010).  In 2012 he was profiled in the BBC4 series Beautiful Minds and on Radio 4’s The Life Scientific.

He has sat on judging panels for awards as diverse as the Royal Society’s Faraday Award and the British Academy Television Awards, and has been president of the Biological Sciences section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004 Baliol College Oxford instituted the Dawkins Prize, awarded for “outstanding research into the ecology and behaviour of animals whose welfare and survival may be endangered by human activities”.

Professor Dawkins’s own awards have included the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London (1989), the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Award (1990), the Nakayama Prize for Achievement in Human Science (1990), The International Cosmos Prize (1997) and the Kistler Prize (2001). He has Honorary Doctorates in both literature and science, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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