Richard III’s discovery takes to the stage at the Royal Institution

Richard III geneticist Professor Turi King to give prestigious JBS Haldane Lecture on Monday 26 November

The story of the death of the last English monarch to die in battle and his unprecedented rediscovery five centuries later will be retold for one of science’s most prestigious lectures at the historic Royal Institution.

Turi King is a Reader in Genetics and Archaeology and Professor of Public Engagement at the University of Leicester. She is perhaps best known for leading the genetics analysis in the King Richard III case leading to the identification of his remains in 2014 which led to his reinterment in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

In this year's Genetics Society JBS Haldane Lecture, Turi King will discuss leading the international research team involved in the DNA identification work of the remains of Richard III and the current project to sequence his entire genome.

‘King Richard III: the resolution of a 500 year old cold case’ will take place from 7.00pm to 8.30pm on Monday 26 November at the Royal Institution. Standard tickets cost £16, concessions are £10 and Ri Members and Ri Patrons are £7. 

As well as her renowned work on Richard III’s DNA, Professor King will also elaborate on her recent involvement in the identification of the remains of the man ‘who shaped early America’, Sir George Yeardley. Governor of Virginia from 1587 to 1627 and popularised by the Sky One series Jamestown, his remains are believed to have been unearthed by archaeologists as part of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project.

Professor King said: “It a tremendous honour to have been awarded the JBS Haldane Lecture for 2018. It recognises people for their ability to communicate science to the general public, something I’m rather passionate about. I’m really looking forward to giving a talk at the Royal Institution again, such a prestigious organisation which has been supporting public engagement in science for over 200 years. 

“While I’ll be speaking mainly about the Richard III case, I’ll also bring in the latest work I’ve been doing with the Jamestown Rediscovery project. I love that I get to work with people, all bringing their own expertise to the project: I hope to enthuse the public about the power of interdisciplinary research.”

Turi has an unusual background in that she started her career in archaeology in her native Canada, before reading for a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge where she specialised in Biological Anthropology. It was there that she became interested in how genetics could be used to answer questions in history and archaeology, and she moved to the University of Leicester to study molecular genetics, her award-winning PhD being on the link between British surnames and the Y chromosome. All of her subsequent work has combined genetics with history, archaeology, geography, forensics and epidemiology.

Alongside this, she began to develop a public engagement strand to her career, becoming the most prodigious member of staff at the University of Leicester for public engagement work. Alongside giving talks and workshops at schools, she gives numerous lectures ranging from family history groups to a Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill. She has advised on and appeared in numerous television and radio programmes and has recently been made a Professor of Public Engagement at the University in recognition of the contribution she continues to make in making science accessible to the general public.

The JBS Haldane Lecture recognises an individual for outstanding ability to communicate topical subjects in genetics research, widely interpreted, to an interested lay audience. This speaker will have a flair for conveying the relevance and excitement of recent advances in genetics in an informative and engaging way. The annual open lecture will be delivered on a topic, and in a place, agreed with the Genetics Society. In addition to delivering the Lecture, the recipient will receive an honorarium of £1,000 and a three-year membership of the Society.