Reading Evolutionary Biology Group - Home

Professor Mark Pagel, FRS

School of Biological Sciences,
Lyle Building,
University of Reading,

Telephone: + 44 (0)118 378 8900
Fax: + 44 (0)118 378 0180



Mark Pagel builds statistical models to examine the evolutionary processes imprinted in human behavior, from genomics to the emergence of complex systems -- to culture. His latest work examines the parallels between linguistic and biological evolution by applying methods of phylogenetics, or the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups, essentially viewing language as a culturally transmitted replicator with many of the same properties we find in genes. He’s looking for patterns in the rates of evolution of language elements, and hoping to find the social factors that influence trends of language evolution.

At the University of Reading, Pagel heads the Evolution Laboratory in the biology department, where his work raises questions in the philosophy of biology, mind and language and explores such questions as, "Why would humans evolve a system of communication that prevents them from communicating with other members of the same species?" He has used statistical methods to reconstruct features of dinosaur genomes, and to infer ancestral features of genes and proteins.


Falling Walls: Breaking the Wall of Collective Stupidity (2013). [Video]

The Washington Post: Linguists identify 15,000-year-old 'ultraconserved words' (May 2013). [Article]
Mark Pagel, Quentin D. Atkinson, Andreea S. Calude, and Andrew Meade, May 2013. Ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia.

Book (February 2012)
Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind by Mark Pagel. W. W. Norton & Company. [Publisher] [Facebook]
Guardian - [Best science books of 2012]
See [Book] page for further details.

Edge Interview: Infinitely Stupid (December 2011)
[Interview & video]

TED Global 2011, Edinburgh (July 2011)
How language transformed humanity by Mark Pagel. [TED Global]

RTVE (April 2011). Los orígenes de las especies by Mark Pagel. [RTVE]

British Council: Darwin Now
Language diversity by Mark Pagel. [British Council]

Mark Pagel