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Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock awarded Rosalind Franklin Lecture Medal 2022

Tonight, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE delivered the prestigious Humanists UK Rosalind Franklin Lecture, Reaching for the stars. The lecture was an inspiring exploration of Maggie’s journey into astronomy and physics, from budding young scientist to one of the nation’s most beloved astronomers. As in previous years, the Rosalind Franklin Lecture was chaired by the award-winning journalist Samira Ahmed. The lecture took place online, with an audience of over 400.

Humanists UK’s Rosalind Franklin Lecture is the centrepiece of Humanists UK’s International Women’s Day celebrations. Each year, the lecture is held in the same week as International Women’s Day, to explore and celebrate the many contributions of women to society, and towards the promotion and advancement of humanism in the UK. It’s also, of course, named after the famous humanist and scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose contributions to science went unacknowledged because of her sex for years. Today, we celebrate the life, work, and legacy of Rosalind Franklin, her contemporaries, and women in all fields of academia.

Maggie’s densely packed lecture explored the breadth and history of space science, global challenges facing science, and the barriers faced by women in science, blending in throughout her own story and her driving mission to bring wonder and awe to science education. ‘Astronomy truly is for everyone,’ said Maggie, as she introduced slides showing that archaeologists had discovered that human civilisations across Africa, Asia, and Europe were already looking to the stars and asking questions – practising science – thousands of years ago. Science was part of a globally shared human heritage, and science communicators had a special responsibility to make that heritage meaningful to people young and old. Her passion for science education was evident throughout. Accessible and inspiring science, she said, was ‘poetry in motion’.

Following the lecture and a rapid question-and-answer session, Samira Ahmed presented Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock with Humanists UK’s Rosalind Franklin Medal in recognition of her success engaging and inspiring the public – and, in particular, young girls – with the science of the cosmos.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock has not only furthered our understanding of the universe and our place in it, but has inspired us to stay curious – keeping our eyes fixed on the stars, and not down at our feet. We are delighted that she is the first space scientist to give our Rosalind Franklin Lecture – delivering poetry in motion – and to receive the Rosalind Franklin Medal.’



About Maggie Aderin-Pocock

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist and science educator, perhaps best known for presenting BBC One’s The Sky at Night since 2014. She received an MBE in 2009 for services to science and science education, and Vodafone’s 2019 Woman of the Year Innovation Award. In 2020, she won the William Thomson, Lord Kelvin Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics, and since September 2021, is President of the British Science Association.

She is the manager of Science Innovation Ltd., a company she founded to enable her to engage the world with the joys of space and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). To date, Maggie has directly engaged with 350,000 people across the world. She sits on boards of the Science Museum, The Unboxed Festival, and Science, Technology and Facilities Council (STFC). She also has a Science in Society Fellowship from the STFC, which enables her to engage the public with the science work that she loves. The Fellowship is held at University College London.

Maggie features commonly on radio and television, including Do We Really Need the Moon? (BBC Two) – awarded at the Women in Film and TV Awards –, Do We Really Need Satellites? (BBC Two), Brave New World (Channel 4), The One Show (BBC One), Ducks Quacks Don’t Echo (Sky One) with Lee Mack and I Literally Just Told You (Channel 4) with Jimmy Carr, and Mini Stargazing for CBeebies. Her book Sky at Night’s Book of the Moon was published in 2018 by BBC Books and her latest children’s book Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System hit shelves in 2019.  She is writing two new books which are due for release in 2022.

About Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed is a multi-award winning journalist and broadcaster with a special focus on culture, politics, and social change. She won Audio Broadcaster of the Year at the 2020 British Press Guild Awards for her work as a presenter of Front Row on Radio 4 and her podcast How I Found My Voice.

About the Rosalind Franklin Lecture series

Marking International Women’s Day, this explores and celebrates the contribution of women towards the promotion and advancement of aspects of humanism in the UK and around the world. The Rosalind Franklin medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named for Rosalind Franklin, humanist and scientist, whose contribution to science for many years went unacknowledged on account of her sex but who is today rightly celebrated.

About Humanists UK

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.


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