Professor Dame Sue Black set to reveal the secrets of forensic science in the 2022 CHRISTMAS LECTURES

One of the world’s leading forensic investigators, Professor Dame Sue Black, will deliver this year’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES from the Royal Institution.

Sue Black, a white woman with curly hair, in front of the Ri Theatre seats
Image credit: Paul Wilkinson

It was announced today that in a series of three Lectures to be broadcast on BBC Four in late December, Dame Sue will share the secrets of the real-life scientific detective process she uses to identify both the dead and the living.

With the public more fascinated by science and forensics than ever, Sue will reveal why we shouldn’t believe everything we see in our favourite TV crime dramas. Using stand-out cases from her remarkable career, she’ll explore the huge leaps forward forensic science has made, as well as some of its limitations, and what the future might hold. And she’ll reveal how real life can be far stranger than fiction.

Dame Sue has played a lead role in some of the world’s highest profile forensic investigations, helping to identify the victims and perpetrators of conflicts and disasters internationally, including the conflict in Kosovo where she was the lead forensic anthropologist to the British Forensic Team, and the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification Operation. Sue is currently President of St John’s College Oxford.

Dame Sue said: “It is an enormous honour to be chosen to present the 2022 CHRISTMAS LECTURES. I’m looking forward to revealing the crucial but often unseen work of forensic investigators and to fuelling some young imaginations with this amazing area of science.

“And as discussing and critically examining science is so important to its application in our lives, I’ll also be asking some challenging and thought-provoking questions about the future of forensic science, whether our identity, actually, is wrapped up more in our memories than it is in our bodies, and what that might mean for crime detection.”   

Welcoming Sue as the 2022 Christmas Lecturer, Director of the Royal Institution, Katherine Mathieson, said: “Through the pandemic, the climate crisis and other significant challenges facing the world, we’ve really seen science in practice; we’ve witnessed the scientific process of researching and gathering evidence in action, seen scientific advances as they happen and scientific exploration as it’s done.

“Our role at the Ri is to give everyone the opportunity to find out more about science, so we are delighted that Sue will be using the CHRISTMAS LECTURES to lift the lid on such an important and far-reaching topic.”

Tom Coveney, BBC Commissioning Head of Science, said: ”With more interest in forensics than ever, I am delighted that one of our leading experts – Dame Sue Black – will separate forensic fact from fiction in this year’s Lectures. No doubt viewers will be captivated by Sue’s insights into real crime scene mysteries; and her provocative questions about the future of forensics.”

The 2022 CHRISTMAS LECTURES will be filmed in the Royal Institution’s iconic theatre on 13, 15 and 17 December 2022 and broadcast on BBC Four and iPlayer between Christmas and New Year.

Seats in the theatre for the live filming will be available for an audience of 11 to 17 year-olds, with tickets available to Ri Young Members, Members and Patrons, through a ballot opening on Monday 26 September. To find out how to become a member of the Royal Institution and for more information on attending this once in a lifetime demonstration-based series, click here.

The Ri also makes tickets available for free, to schools in disadvantaged areas that benefit from additional support to engage with science.

The 2022 CHRISTMAS LECTURES are co-produced by the Ri and Windfall Films for BBC Four and iPlayer. They were commissioned by Kate Phillips, Director of Unscripted and Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Tom Coveney. The Series Producer is Tom Ranson and the Executive Producer is David Dugan.