‘Am I Normal?’ – Dr Sarah Chaney to deliver Voltaire Lecture 2022

23 November, 2022

Author and researcher Dr Sarah Chaney will deliver Humanists UK’s 2022 Voltaire Lecture, titled Am I Normal?, on the theme of her recent book by the same name. She will receive the Voltaire Lecture medal, in a 1 December online event chaired by Humanists UK President Dr Adam Rutherford.

In her 2022 Voltaire Lecture, Sarah will tell the surprising history of how the very notion of the normal came about, how it shaped us all, often while entrenching oppressive values, and will look at why we’re still asking the internet: Do I have a normal body? Is my sex life normal? Are my kids normal? Along the way, she will challenge why we ever thought it might be a desirable thing to be.



Dr Sarah Chaney is an honorary research fellow at the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions. She spent her teens and twenties furiously rebelling against the mainstream, while secretly longing to be normal. It wasn’t until she passed 30 that she (mostly) stopped worrying about this mythical ideal. Alongside her research work she runs the public exhibitions and events programme at the Royal College of Nursing. Her most recent book Am I Normal?: The 200-Year Search for Normal People (And Why They Don’t Exist) was published in July 2022. She has also written on the history of self-injury, in Psyche on the Skin (2017).

The Voltaire Lecture will take place online on Thursday 1 December. Tickets are available now at humanists.uk/voltaire2022.


The Voltaire Lecture explores ‘any aspect of scientific or philosophical thought or human activity as affected by or with particular reference to humanism’. The Voltaire medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named for the philosopher Voltaire. The inaugural lecture took place in 1968 and was delivered by Theodore Besterman, biographer of Voltaire, who went on to fund the lecture series in his legacy.

Dr Adam Rutherford is a scientist, writer, and broadcaster. He is a Lecturer in Biology and Society at UCL, and has written and presented award-winning series and programmes for the BBC, including Radio 4’s Start the Week, Inside Science, and The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry with Dr Hannah Fry. He’s written a number of books including A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, the very humanist Book of Humans, the Sunday Times bestselling How to Argue With a Racist, and, most recently, Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics, published in February 2022.

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

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.