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Presentation by the Gene Expert Jon Beckwith

Geneticist from Harvard University Will Give a Talk on November 7, 2010, during a Joint Presentation by Freie Universität Berlin and the English Theatre Berlin

№ 321/2010 from Oct 26, 2010

The geneticist and cloning expert, Jon Beckwith, will give a talk on Sunday, November 7, 2010, on “Genetics and human behavior: The persistence of failed scientific ideas.” Beckwith’s talk will follow the performance of the science play A Number by Caryl Churchill. The play is being staged at the English Theatre Berlin under the direction of Günther Grosser in cooperation with the microbiology professor Regine Hengge and advanced science students from Freie Universität. The event is part of the Science and Theatre program, a collaborative project between Freie Universität and the English Theatre Berlin that puts science-inspired plays on stage. The lecture will be given in English. The event is open to the public, and there is no additional charge for the lecture.

In 1969 Professor Jon Beckwith was the first scientist who managed to clone a gene. At a press conference held at that time, he pointed out that it was now possible to manipulate genes. This was the beginning of the discussion on genetic engineering. Ever since, Beckwith has dealt with the ethical, social, and political implications of modern genetics and genome sciences. He was also a member of the Ethics Panel of the Human Genome Project of the U.S. government.

In his presentation Beckwith will explain how it happens that so many preliminary scientific theories, such as the inheritance of human intelligence, crime, or alleged gender-specific behaviors and skills, persist as “scientific truth” in public debate, although in many cases they have long been refuted scientifically.

The play A Number deals with human cloning as an extreme case of possible human biotechnologies and raises questions about human identity, the inheritance of complex human traits, and power and responsibility in family relationships. In the play a father has a new son cloned because he no longer gets along with his son. However, he is overtaken by his past, and the “original” and the clone are confronted with each other.

Time / Location:

  • Sunday, November 7, 2010: The play starts at 7 p.m., the lecture at 8:30 p.m.
  • English Theatre Berlin, Fidicinstrasse 40, 10965 Berlin (Kreuzberg); Subway U6 or Bus 104 to Platz der Luftbrücke / Bus M19 to Mehringdamm

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Regine Hengge, Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Biology,

Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838–53119, Email: