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Patron: Her Majesty the Queen


The Royal Scottish Society of Arts
Showcasing Scotland's Science, Technology and Innovation

5th Meeting of the 188th Session (2008-2009)

The Genetic History of the British Isles

Dr Jim Wilson
Royal Society Research Fellow
Public Health Sciences
University of Edinburgh

In the Augustine United Church
41 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh, EH1 1EL
On Monday 23rd February 2009, at 7pm

The rich archive we all carry inside us - written in the letters of the genetic code - is slowly being deciphered to illuminate our ancestors~R origins, relationships and movements. We are at the cusp of a revolution in genetic history as new technologies allow ever more genetic markers to be identified and surveyed. Thus far investigations have focussed on the Y chromosome, a block of DNA inherited down paternal lineages which has unparalleled power to unravel male histories. Analysis of the Y chromosome provided genetic evidence for Norse Viking ancestry first in Orkney, and then other parts of the British Isles; of Danish or Anglo-Saxon settlement in the East of England and beyond; and of a deep continuity for the majority of British and Irish lineages from Palaeolithic times to the present. Recently a number of more specific indigenous and incoming lineages have been identified: Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English. After an update on the latest findings, future prospects will conclude the talk.

Dr Jim Wilson read genetics at the University of Edinburgh and continued to doctoral studies in human population genetics at New College, Oxford. In 2003 he moved back to Edinburgh where he holds a prestigious Royal Society research fellowship. His research interests revolve around understanding the patterns of human genetic variation, what they can tell us about our ancestry and their implications for our health. One focus is on the identification of genes predisposing to common killers such as heart disease and diabetes. He leads a large genetic epidemiology study in his native Orkney which has identified a number of disease susceptibility genes. Dr Wilson also specialises in human history — he was the first to identify the genetic signature of Viking ancestry in the British Isles and has since identified markers of Irish, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and other ancestries. He spends a considerable amount of time explaining historical and medical genetics to the public through print and broadcast media, including various TV series, and is founder and managing director of the genetic ancestry testing company, EthnoAncestry.

Location of meeting

Society Business

The President, Robin Harper MSP, will be in the Chair

Members of the Public are welcome to attend

Jane Ridder-Patrick, Secretary
Telephone: 0131 556 2161

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