John Templeton Foundation
Rittenhouse Planetarium
home co-chairs participants


Terrence W. Deacon is a professor in the department of anthropology and in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. His research combines human evolutionary biology and neuroscience in the investigation of the evolution of human cognition. An ongoing study of the basis of animal and human communication, especially language, has taken him from laboratory-based cellular-molecular neurobiology to the study of semiotic processes. His work has included axon tract tracing studies of language related systems in primates, developmental brain research, fetal neural transplantation, stem cell implantation, and quantitative comparative neuroanatomy. Dr. Deacon began his collegiate studies at the University of Washington, received a baccalaureate degree from Fairhaven College of Western Washington University, and went on to earn a master’s degree in education and, in 1984, a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from Harvard University. He joined the Harvard faculty that year as an assistant professor of biological anthropology, was promoted to associate professor, and in 1992 became an associate professor of biological anthropology at Boston University and also a research associate at McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School. He accepted his present position in 2002. Dr. Deacon has been a visiting professor at the University of Washington, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the University of California, San Diego. The recipient of a Lehman Fellowship from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, a psychiatric neuroscience fellowship from the Harvard Medical School, and a Centenary Alumni Fellowship from Western Washington University, he delivered the 69th James Arthur Lecture at the American Museum of Natural History. He has published some twenty-five chapters in volumes of collected scientific papers and is the author or co-author of more than forty-five articles in scholarly journals. His acclaimed book, The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, in which he argues that language itself was part of the process that was responsible for evolution, was published by W. W. Norton in 1997 and has subsequently been translated into Japanese, Italian, and Greek. Last year it was awarded the Staley Prize by the School of American Research. He is presently completing work on two additional books, Homunculus: Evolution, Information, and the Emergence of Consciousness for W. W. Norton and (with Isaiah Nengo) Homo Sapiens: Evolutionary Biology and the Human Sciences for Thompson/Wadsworth.