Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

  • Speaker
  • Attribution: Kayana Szymczak /The New York TimesDavid Reich, Ph.D.Professor, Genetics, Harvard University
    Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Date & Time


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Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
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Scientists sequenced the first ancient human genomes in 2010, and since then, more than 5000 additional ancient genomes have been published. That work makes it possible to ask and answer questions about the past that were impossible to address before. A measure of a new scientific instrument’s novelty is how often it reveals surprises, and by this measure, ancient DNA has been as revelatory as past instruments like the microscope.

In this talk, David Reich will discuss how ancient DNA has revealed archaic human populations that interbred with modern humans that we did not know about before. He will talk about how ancient DNA has revealed that large-scale mixing of populations is not just a phenomenon of the last 500 years but has occurred throughout human history. He will finally discuss how we can use ancient DNA to estimate how large and mobile human populations were in the deep past.

Registration is required for this free event.
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About the Speaker

Attribution: Kayana Szymczak /The New York Times

Reich is a professor of genetics and human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard in 1996 and his Ph.D. in statistical genetics from the University of Oxford in 1999, supervised by David Goldstein. Reich completed his post-doctoral supervised by Eric Lander at the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research. He has received several awards, including the 2017 Dan David Prize in Archaeology and Natural Sciences, the 2019 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences and the 2020 Darwin-Wallace Award from the Linnaean Society of London (all joint with Svante Pääbo). He additionally received the 2019 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology.

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