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March 2017 NUI Galway Lecture on Human Evolution During the Last Ice Age
NUI Galway will host a very special public lecture by a leading international expert examining the evolution of humans during the past fifty thousand years, during a time when much northern Europe periodically became a harsh, frozen wilderness and was intermittently covered by vast and desolate sheets of ice.
Professor Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, will deliver the William King Annual Lecture on the ‘Genomic History of the Ice Age Europeans’ on Thursday, 23 March.
Professor Krause was a senior member of the international team that made scientific history in 2010 when it published the first draft sequence of the DNA of Neanderthal people, the closest evolutionary relatives to humans living today. Later that same year, his team discovered a previously completely unknown group of human ancestors – the Denisovans – based on DNA preserved in a tiny fossilised finger bone recovered from a Siberian cave. More recently, Professor Krause uncovered the DNA of the bacterium responsible for the Black Death, based on samples extracted from the 14th-century plague cemetery in London.
Event co-organiser Professor Heinz Peter Nasheuer, Biochemistry, NUI Galway, said: “It is very exciting to have an international scientist of the calibre of Professor Krause speak at NUI Galway. His research, which involves the careful extraction and painstaking analysis of ancient genetic material from fossil bones and teeth, has provided amazing, and unique insights into the evolution of modern humans in Europe.”
The William King Annual Lecture series was established in 2015 with the aim of honouring the scientific legacy of William King, the first Professor of Geology and Mineralogy in Queen’s College Galway (as NUI Galway was then known). King made his own scientific history in 1863 when he first proposed the formal scientific name Homo neanderthalensis for Neanderthal people.
Dr John Murray, Earth and Ocean Sciences, NUI Galway, who is also involved in organising the forthcoming public lecture, said: “William King’s scientifically bold and farsighted suggestion to define a new group of ancient human ancestors based on fossil evidence was a vitally important step in the birth of palaeoanthropology, or the study of human evolution. He remains the first scientist to ever name a new and extinct species of human – by any measure remarkable scientific achievement.”
Professor Krause’s free talk will take place at 6pm in MY243 Lecture Theatre, Áras Moyola and all are welcome to attend.