Steven Rose

Steven Peter Russell Rose (born 4 July 1938)[1] is emeritus Professor of Biology and Neurobiology at the Open University and Gresham College, London.

Early life and education

Born in London, United Kingdom, Rose studied biochemistry at King's College, Cambridge, and neurobiology at Cambridge and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.[2] When he was appointed to the professorship of biology at the newly instituted Open University in 1969 he was Britain's youngest full professor and chair of department. At the Open University he established the Brain Research Group, within which he and his colleagues investigated the biological processes involved in memory formation and treatments for Alzheimer's Disease on which he has published some 300 research papers and reviews. He has written several popular science books and regularly writes for The Guardian newspaper. From 1999 to 2002, he gave public lectures as Professor of Physick (Genetics and Society) at Gresham College, London. His work has won him numerous medals and prizes including the Biochemical Society medal for communication in science and the prestigious Edinburgh Medal. His book The Making of Memory won the Science Book Prize in 1993.[3] In 2012 the British Neuroscience Association gave him a lifetime award for "Outstanding contributions to neuroscience."

His younger brother is Nikolas Rose, professor of sociology at the LSE. He is married to the sociologist Hilary Rose with whom he shared the Gresham professorship, and with whom he has written and edited a number of books including Alas Poor Darwin: Arguments against Evolutionary Psychology and, in 2012, Genes, Cells and Brains: the Promethean promises of the new biology (Verso), described by Guardian reviewer Steven Poole as 'fascinating, lucid and angry' with a 'lethally impressive hit ratio.'

Growing up as an Orthodox Jew, Rose says that he decided to become an atheist when he was eight years old.[4]


Research and scientific controversies

With Richard Lewontin and Leon Kamin, Rose championed the "radical science movement".[5] The three criticized sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, and adaptationism, most prominently in the book Not in Our Genes (1984), laying out their opposition to Sociobiology (E. O. Wilson, 1975), The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins, 1976), and other works promoting an evolutionary explanation for human social behaviour. Not in Our Genes described Dawkins as "the most reductionist of sociobiologists". In retort, Dawkins wrote that the book practices a straw man fallacy by distorting arguments in terms of genetics to "an idiotic travesty (that the properties of a complex whole are simply the sum of those same properties in the parts)", and accused the authors of giving "ideology priority over truth".[6] Rose replied in the second edition of his book Lifelines. Rose wrote further works in this area: in 2000 he jointly edited with the sociologist Hilary Rose, a critique of evolutionary psychology entitled Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology. In 2006 he wrote a paper dismissing classical heritability estimates as useful scientific measures in respect of human populations especially in the context of IQ.[7] His most recent book, again with Hilary Rose, is Can Neuroscience change our minds?

Rose was for several years a regular panelist on BBC Radio 4's ethics debating series The Moral Maze.[2] Rose is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Novel Neurotechnologies.[8]

Political views

The Guardian described Rose as a "polemicist on the left." His friend and collaborator Patrick Bateson wrote that Rose "may be the last of the Marxist radical scientists," adding that "Steven is not always right; but he has been very brave in some of the things he has said."[9] In combining his scientific career with political radicalism he is regarded as the successor to the Marxist crystallographer J.D.Bernal.

Personal life

Rose, together with his wife, sociologist Hilary Rose has been instrumental in calling to boycott Israeli academic institutions for as long as Israel continues its occupation of the Palestinian Territories, on the grounds of Israel academics' close relationship with the IDF. An open letter[10] initiated by Steven and Hilary Rose, and also signed by 123 other academics was published in The Guardian on 6 April 2002.[11] In 2004 he was one of the founding members of the British Committee for Universities of Palestine.[12] He is an atheist.[13]


See also


  1. ‘ROSE, Prof. Steven Peter Russell’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 6 Aug 2013
  2. 1 2 Biography at The Moral Maze.
  4. Rose, Steven P. (2007). "In the Beginning". In Holloway, Richard. Revelations: Personal Responses to the Books of the Bible. Canongate Books. p. 41. ISBN 1-84195-737-2. Did the editors of this series of volumes of the King James realise that I was an ex-Orthodox Jew, an atheist and a biologist to boot when they suggested that I write this introduction?
  5. Rose, Steven Peter Russell; Lewontin, Richard Charles; Kamin, Leon J. (1984). Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature. ISBN 978-0-14-022605-8.
  6. Bateson, Patrick; Dawkins, Richard (January 24, 1985). "Sociobiology: the debate continues". New Scientist. 105 (1440): 28–60.
  7. Rose, Steven P R (2006). "Commentary: Heritability estimates—long past their sell-by date". International Journal of Epidemiology. 35 (3): 525–7. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl064. PMID 16645027.
  9. Brown, Andrew (14 December 2001). "The Political Scientist". The Guardian.
  10. "Open Letter: More pressure for Mid East peace". The Guardian. 6 April 2002.
  11. Beckett, Andy; MacAskill, Ewen (12 December 2002). "British academic boycott of Israel gathers pace". The Guardian.
  13. Lifeline: Steven Rose, Lancet Vol. 355 Issue 9213 p. 1472, 22 April 2000.

External links

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