Unravelling the double helix

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Thursday 25 July

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • Credit: lisichik via Pixabay


Standard £16


Concession £10


Ri Members and Ri Patrons £7

Event description

The story of DNA is a saga packed with awful mistakes as well as brilliant science, with a wonderful cast of heroes and villains. Surprisingly, much of it is unfamiliar. The elucidation of the double helix was one of the most brilliant gems of twentieth-century science, but some of the scientists who played crucial roles have been airbrushed out of history. Others were plunged into darkness when the spotlight fell on James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin. Join Gareth Williams as he shows that their contribution was to click into place the last few pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle assembled over several decades. 

About the speaker

From 2003-8, Gareth Williams was Dean of Medicine at the University of Bristol, where he still teaches on the Medical Humanities and Medical courses. He now writes books for the general reader about the history of medicine and science. The first, the product of a sabbatical year in 2009, was Angel of Death: the story of smallpox (shortlisted for the Wellcome Medical Book Prize 2010). This was followed by Paralysed with Fear: the story of polio (2013) and A Monstrous Commotion: the mysteries of Loch Ness (2015). My next book, Unravelling the Double Helix: the lost heroes of DNA, will be published in the UK by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in April 2019, and by Pegasus (USA) in the autumn. 

Gareth has served as President of the Anglo-French Medical Society, Vice-President of the European Society for Clinical Investigation, and Chair of the Trustees of the Edward Jenner Museum. He is proud to be an Ambassador of the British Polio Fellowship, which supports those living with the legacy of this cruel disease. His main outside interests are music and natural history. He is a keen flautist and saxophonist, playing in orchestras, a wind quintet and various jazz groups.


The doors will open at approximately 6.30pm, with a prompt start at 7.00pm.

Latecomers will be admitted into the gallery.


The theatre is on the first floor and there is step-free access from the street via lift.

The closest underground station is Green Park, which is step-free.

There is space at floor level in the theatre for wheelchair users.

Seating is usually unreserved for our events. If you and your group require seating reservations, please do let us know by email and we’ll be more than happy to help. Email: events@ri.ac.uk.

Carers can receive a free ticket to an event by emailing events@ri.ac.uk.

Our theatre is equipped with an Audio Induction Loop. 


This event will be filmed and on the Ri's YouTube channel within a few months. Subscribe for free to hear when new videos are released.

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