Skip to page content

Press release

95% Chimp - The Genes That Make Us Human

Pfizer Annual Science Lecture, 15 November 2004, 19.30-21.00

How close to apes are we? What differences make us human? Are we all mutants? This year’s Pfizer Annual Science Lecture, taking place at the Natural History Museum on Monday 15 November, investigates human diversity. Guest speaker Dr Armand Marie Leroi will explore how mutants demonstrate the genetic differences that make us the way we are.

In 1863, evolutionist Thomas Henry Huxley demonstrated that humans are very closely related to apes, but failed to answer one important question: if we are so much like apes, what exactly are the differences? Dr Leroi will take the audience on a journey from Victorian museums to modern molecular genetics, arguing that human mutants not only reveal the molecular programmes that make up the human body but also our evolutionary past.

Dr Leroi is a Reader in Evolutionary Developmental Biology at Imperial College London. He was awarded the Royal Institution’s ‘Scientist for the New Century’ in 2001, his first book Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body, was published to critical acclaim this year and became the basis of a major Channel 4 documentary series.

A variety of specimens from the Natural History Museum’s mutant comparative anatomy collection will be on display for the first time on the night of the lecture. The weird and wonderful mutated specimens include a pig with two snouts, a duck with two bodies, a two-headed shark and a four-legged chicken.

Now in its tenth year, the lecture has established itself as one of the most important forums for stimulating scientific debate. Dr Leroi follows such eminent speakers as Lord Winston, Lord May, Professor Richard Dawkins and Sir David Attenborough.

‘Our support of the prestigious Pfizer Annual Science Lecture helps us to achieve our commitment to encouraging interest in and access to science for all,’ said Polly Dryden, Head of Corporate Responsibility for Pfizer Limited. ‘Dr Leroi’s exploration of human diversity and mutation will provide a fascinating and visually stunning lecture’.

- Ends -

Sponsored by Pfizer

Notes for editors

Winner of the 2004 Large Visitor Attraction of the Year award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries. The Museum is committed to encouraging public engagement with science. This has been greatly enhanced by the Darwin Centre, a major new initiative, which offers visitors unique access behind the scenes of the Museum. Phase One of the project opened to the public in 2002 and Phase Two is scheduled to open in 2008.

Event information
Date and time: Monday 15 November 2004, 19.30
Location: Central Hall
Admission: £14, £11 concessions and £10 NHM Members. To book tickets, please call 020 7942 5555 or book online at
Nearest tube: South Kensington

If you would like to interview Dr Armand Marie Leroi, request images or further event information, please contact:

Becky Chetley, Liz Woznicki or Chloe Kembery
Tel: 020 7942 5654 / 5278
(not for publication)

Issued November 2004