A fixture of the College calendar since the 1980s, the Darwin College Lecture Series is a unique opportunity to hear experts in their field explore the same topic from different angles, perspectives and disciplines over an eight-week Cambridge term.

2023 organisers Professor Harry Bhadeshia and Dr David Gershlick discuss this year's theme and line-up. 

Upcoming Lectures

Professor Adrian Kent, University of Cambridge
The Closeting of Secrets
The definition and properties of information may seem to be fundamental features of the world that are independent of how particles, fields and space-time behave. In fact, though, information is fundamentally physical and twentieth century physics has radically changed our understanding of its nature and properties. Einstein's relativity theories tell us that information cannot travel faster than the speed of light in vacuum.
Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue
Professor Dame Jane Francis, British Antarctic Survey
Antarctica:Isolated Continent
Continents as we know them today emerged as a consequence of the mechanism of plate tectonics, which led to the fragmentation of a super-continent. One such fragment, the Antarctica, now is in the ocean at the South Pole, covered in thick ice-sheets that contrast with its long-past history where it was adorned by forests and inhabited by animals including dinosaurs. It was the natural processes that buried carbon dioxide that led to the glaciation of Antarctica. The burning of fossil fuels is now having an opposite effect, causing the depletion of the ice at a remarkable rate.
Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue
Professor Philip Jones, University College London
Isolation and Trapping using Optical Tweezers
In 2018 Arthur Ashkin was awarded a half share of that year's Nobel Prize in Physics "for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems". The work for which he was recognised had its origins more than thirty years before, and in the years since their invention, the uses of optical tweezers have grown far beyond biological systems, with numerous diverse applications across the chemical and physical sciences also.
Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue
Dr Arik Kershenbaum, University of Cambridge
Are we alone in the Universe?
Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? If not, does that mean that we humans are utterly alone in creation? Recent technological developments make the discovery of life on other planets almost expected within the coming decades. But most of the inhabited planets we hope to discover may well be populated by no more than alien bacteria. Will that make us feel any less alone? What we really hope to find are aliens with whom we can communicate and hold a conversation.
Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue
Professor Heonik Kwon, University of Cambridge
The Self-Imposed Isolation of North Korea
North Korea is one of the most secluded societies in today's world. Its system of rule is often referred to as an enigma of modern politics. This essay asks what has caused this condition of extreme isolation, highlighting the relentless pursuit of a historically durable charismatic political power. The discussion will include Max Weber's thoughts on the place of charismatic power in modern politics.
Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue
Professor Amrita Narlikar, German Institute for Global and Area Studies
Isolation in International Relations
Since the end of the Second World War, diverse aspects of International Relations (IR) - including foreign policy, global governance, negotiation studies, and political economy - have been guided by an understanding that if markets were kept open, and states and their peoples interconnected, both prosperity and peace would stand a far better chance. In contrast, isolation - or its translation into a national strategy, isolationism - is often treated as a profanity in both the study as well as the practice of IR. In my Darwin lecture, I offer a different perspective.
Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Avenue

2022 Lecture Series - Food

Bhaskar Vira

The Political Economy of Conservation and Food Security

Martin Jones

Archaeology and Discovering the Food of the Past

Melissa Calaresu

Food and Cultural History

Alex Rushmer

Food as Expression

Richard Parmee

X-Rays and Food Safety

Sarah Mukherjee

Food, Power & Society

Andrew Knight

Should Cats and Dogs Go Vegan?

Sarah Bridle

Food and Climate Change

Past Lectures

Claire Roddie

Battle Blood

Sara Read

Transitional Bleeding in Early Modern England

Tim Pedley

Blood in Motion: The Physics of Blood Flow

Carol Senf

Dracula, Vampires and the New Woman

Rose George

Blood Villains and Heroes

Walter Bodmer

Bloodlines of the British

Marc Quinn

Blood Sculptures

Sean Carroll

Mysteries of Modern Physics”

Jo Marchant

Decoding the Heavens: The Antikythera Mechanism

Tiffany Watt Smith

The Enigma of Emotion

Erik Kwakkel

The Enigmatic Premodern Book

Tamsin Mather

Eruptions, Emissions and Enigmas: from fuming volcanic vents to mass extinction events”

Albert Yu-Min Lin

Archaeological Mysteries

Watch all past lectures

Since 1986, the Darwin College Lecture Series has provided an important annual contribution to Cambridge's intellectual conversation. Watch or listen to previous lectures via the following services.