Prof Lane’s research is on the way that energy flow has shaped evolution over 4 billion years, using a mixture of theoretical and experimental work to address the origin of life, the evolution of complex cells and downright peculiar behaviour such as sex. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and is Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origin and Evolution (CLOE). He was awarded the 2009 UCL Provost’s Venture Research Prize, the 2011 BMC Research Award for Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics and Evolution, the 2015 Biochemical Society Award for his outstanding contribution to molecular life sciences and 2016 Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture, the UK’s premier award for excellence in communicating science.
Nick Lane is the author of five acclaimed books on evolutionary biochemistry, which have sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into 25 languages.
Nick’s most recent book, Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death (Profile/Norton 2022) explores the elusive chemical logic of life. Nick shows that the flux of energy and matter brings the Earth to life and our own lives to an end, along the way explaining the emergence of genetic information and even consciousness. Revolving around the Krebs cycle, an amazing conflicted merry-go round of energy and matter at the heart of life, the book lays bare the stories of the flawed geniuses who pioneered our understanding of biochemistry, uniting the story of our planet with the story of our cells, from photosynthesis to ageing and cancer.
Nick’s first book, Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World (OUP, 2002) is a sweeping history of the relationship between life and our planet, and the paradoxical ways in which adaptations to oxygen play out in our own lives and deaths. It was selected as one of the Sunday Times Books of the Year for 2002, and reprinted as one of 19 titles in the Oxford Landmark Science series of ‘must-read’ classics of modern science writing.
His second book, Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life (OUP, 2005) is an exploration of the extraordinary effects that mitochondria have had on the evolution of complex life. It was selected as one of The Economist’s Books of the Year for 2005, and shortlisted for the 2006 Royal Society Aventis Science Book Prize and the Times Higher Young Academic Author of the Year Award. Also reprinted in the Oxford Landmark Science series.
Nick’s third book, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution (Profile/Norton 2009) is a celebration of the inventiveness of life, and of our own ability to read the deep past to reconstruct the history of life on earth. The great inventions are: the origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death. Life Ascending won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, and was named a Book of the Year by New Scientist, Nature, the Times and the Independent, the latter describing him as “one of the most exciting science writers of our time.”
Nick’s fourth book is entitled The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it Is? (Profile/Norton, 2015). The subtitle in the US is more prosaic but more self-explanatory: Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life. Apart from that, both editions of the book are the same: It attacks a central problem in biology – why did complex life arise only once in four billion years, and why does all complex life share so many peculiar properties, from sex and speciation to senescence? The book argues that energy has constrained the whole trajectory of evolution, from the origin of life to the properties of complex organisms including ourselves. It was named a book of the year by the Times, Economist, Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and New Scientist, and was ‘highly commended’ by the Royal Society of Biology. Bill Gates wrote “this book blew me away”.
Nick Lane has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers (Google Scholar) in top international journals, including Nature, Science, PNAS and Cell, and many feature articles in magazines like Nature, New Scientist and Scientific American. He has appeared regularly on TV and radio (including Horizon, In Our Time, Radiolab, Start the Week and the Today Programme), and speaks in schools and at literary and science festivals, including New Scientist Live, the Cheltenham Festival, Hay Festival and Edinburgh Festival. He has also worked for several years in the pharmaceutical industry, as Strategic Director of Medi Cine, a medical multimedia company based in London, where he was responsible for developing interactive approaches to medical education. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society, the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society.
Nick is married to Dr Ana Hidalgo-Simon and lives in London with their two sons, Eneko and Hugo. He spent many years clinging to rock faces in search of fossils and thrills, but his practical interest in palaeontology is rarely rewarded with more than a devil’s toenail. When not climbing, writing or hunting for wild campsites, he can occasionally be found playing the fiddle in London pubs with the Celtic ensemble Probably Not, or exploring Romanesque churches.