Lewis Wolpert

On this date in 1929, Lewis Wolpert was born into a Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa. He earned a degree in engineering from the University of Witwatersrand in 1950 and graduated from King’s College at the University of London with a Ph.D. in cell biology in 1961. He was a lecturer in zoology at King’s College from 1960-64 and became a professor of biology as applied to medicine at Middlesex Hospital Medical School 1966.

In 2010 he accepted emeritus status as a biology professor at University College London. He has several popular science books, including The Unnatural Nature of Science (1992), Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression (1999), Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief (2006) and How We Live And Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells (2009). Wolpert was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1990. His wife, writer Jill Neville, died of breast cancer in 1997.

After growing up Jewish, he became “a reductionist, materialist atheist,” according to an article in The Guardian (April 11, 2006). He wrote about his deconversion in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: “I was quite a religious child, saying my prayers each night and asking God for help on various occasions. It did not seem to help and I gave it all up around 16 and have been an atheist ever since.” In the book he states that religion arose from humans’ evolutionary predisposition to look for cause and effect relationships.

A vice president of the British Humanist Association, Wolpert has debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig about the existence of God, Christian astrophysicist Hugh Ross on whether there is a case for a creator and William Dembski on the topic of intelligent design. 

Photo (cropped): Wolpert in 1994. CC 4.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation