Elaine Morgan



Humanists come in various kinds, but we have enough in common to need one organisation that can speak for us all.

Elaine Morgan was born in Wales in 1920 and educated at Oxford.

For about 30 years from 1953 she was a successful television writer of plays, serials, and adaptations and won a clutch of awards including two Baftas, a Prix Italia, and a Writer of the Year award.

Just before that outlet dried up, due to changes in technique and taste and a new generation of viewers, she wrote the best-selling book The Descent of Woman (1972). It was prompted by a reaction against the macho image of the “mighty hunter” which was then prevalent in books popularising contemporary thinking on human evolution. A few years later she was drawn into a spin-off controversy concerning whether Alister Hardy had been right to ask in New Scientist “Was man more aquatic in the past?” She has now published five books in support of the answer “Yes, he was.” She had no scientific qualifications, and it was confidently assumed then that anyone supporting her idea belonged on the outer edges of the lunatic fringe of science. It has taken thirty-eight years, and some advances in palaeontological techniques, to bring her theory “a little way in from the cold” – as she describes this slow progress.

Elaine Morgan was ninety in November 2010, but her 2009 TED lecture on the “aquatic ape” was well received, and in it she was able to name a few  distinguished  figures – Professor Philip Tobias,  Daniel Dennett, David Attenborough – who think that the arguments for and against her theory should at least be impartially compared and evaluated.