logo masthead

The putative flute is a femur of a cave bear found in the Divje Babe site in Slovenia. It is thought to be some 55,000 years old. If the bone is a flute, it would be evidence of the making of music by Neanderthals. A three-hole flute made from a mammoth tusk, dated to 30,000 to 37,000 years ago, was excavated from a cave in the German Swabian Alb.

© National Museum of Slovenia
(Photo: Tomaž Lauko)




Simon Conway Morris is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost paleontologists of his time. A professor of evolutionary paleobiology at Cambridge University, he has devoted his research career to the study of the 520-million-year-old Burgess Shale, found between two peaks in the Canadian Rockies, and related fossil-rich formations. In his acclaimed 1998 study, The Crucible of Creation, he re-interpreted the soft-body fauna found in fissile rock as evincing the preeminent role of convergence in evolution. His demonstration that many of the fantastic Burgess Shale animals are related, albeit remotely, to modern forms supports the theory that similar solutions are found to the same kind of environmental challenges in independent lines and places and impugns, as seriously incomplete, the reductionist viewpoint that the present-day world arises as the result of chance past events. In his most recent book, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge University Press, 2003), he extends his argument and builds his case for the inevitability of numerous evolutionary outcomes on a foundation laid by Charles Darwin himself in Origin of the Species, the epochal work to which critics have compared Life’s Solution. Dr. Conway Morris concludes that large-scale features of the history of evolution “are congruent with a Creation”— and he helps restore humanity’s place at its center by his insistence that intelligence is not a fluke, though a life-friendly planet like Earth may be unique. A graduate of the University of Bristol, where he took first-class honors in geology, Dr. Conway Morris went on to Cambridge and studied at Churchill College with Harry Whittington, the first re-interpreter of the Burgess Shale, on a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Studentship. He was elected a research fellow of St. John’s College in 1975 and received his Ph.D. in evolutionary paleobiology the next year. Appointed a lecturer in earth sciences at The Open University in 1979, he returned to Cambridge as a lecturer four years later and was promoted to his current chair in 1995. Dr. Conway Morris is a fellow of the Royal Society and an honorary fellow of the European Union of Geosciences and serves on the board of advisors of the John Templeton Foundation. His work has been supported by research grants from the society as well as from the Nuffield Foundation, the Carlsberg Foundation, the NERC, the National Geographic Society, and the Leverhulme Foundation. He has delivered numerous invited lectures throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Canada, and the United States, including the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh last year. Among many honors, he has been awarded the Walcott Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the Charles Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society of the United States, Yale University’s George Gaylord Simpson Prize, the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London, the Kelvin Medal of the Philosophical Society of Glasgow, and the Ide and Luella Trotter Prize given by Texas A&M University. Dr. Conway Morris holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala. He contributes frequently to general magazines and encyclopedias and to radio and television programs on science and is a member of the editorial board of Geology. The author of some ninety research papers, he has served as editor of five books, including The Deep Structure of Biology: Is Convergence Sufficiently Ubiquitous to Give a Directional Signal? which was published earlier this year by the Templeton Press. The first version of his study of the Burgess Shale and the rise of animals, Journey to the Cambrian (1997), was printed in Japanese and has been reprinted seven times. Dr. Conway Morris brings to music the ear of an appreciative listener.

home | approach | chair | participants