Recorded: 09 Sep 2003
My name is Matt Ridley and I was born in 1958 in Newcastle in Northern England which is where I live now. I was educated—at Oxford University is where did I first degree. Also I had my D. Phil there on the subject of the mating system of the pheasant, which was polygamy in birds basically, the evolution of polygamy in birds. That was as far as I went scientific career, to a PhD level because I then became a journalist. I was science correspondent and then science editor on The Economist. I was then Washington correspondent for The Economist, and the American editor. I left The Economist in 1992 and became a free lance writer, free lance journalist writing mostly about science, but also about environment and economics which are two other subjects I’m interested in. And that was when I started writing a book which became The Red Queen, and that started me on writing book about science.
And in 1996 we started the International Centre for Life in Newcastle which is the, a sort of public engagement with biology project, which actually it was because of trying to brief myself on what was happening in the human genome project around then that I had the idea for maybe I should write a book about it. And I had this sort of chromosome by chromosome gimmick in my head right from the beginning. And I was very lucky and Genome was a great success.
I’m married to Anya Hulbert who is a neuroscientist in her own right. She works on the neuropsychology of vision at Newcastle University, has her own research group. And I have a son and daughter. And my son wishes to be a physicists. The daughter wishes to be a princess at the moment, but she’s quite young.
Matt Ridley is a journalist and a leading science writer. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology from Oxford University in 1983. He worked as a correspondent and editor for The Economist, a columnist for Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and as editor of The Best American Science Writing 2002.
His books include Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature; Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters ; Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human; and Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. His books have been short-listed for many literary awards.
He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Ridley is the honorary life president of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s park devoted to life science that he founded in 1996. He is chairman of Northern Rock plc, and other financial services firms.
In 1996, Ridley first visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and made James D. Watson’s acquaintance. In 2006 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is a visiting professor at the lab.