Gail Cardew

Professor of Science, Culture and Society and Director of Science and Education

  • Credit: Royal Institution


Gail Cardew is the Royal Institution Professor of Science, Culture and Society, and Director of Science and Education. She leads the institution’s charitable public engagement activities and  champions its mission to encourage people to think more deeply about the wonders and applications of science.

Gail is an internationally recognised expert in public engagement and a committed advocate for the UK’s excellence in this field. She first joined the Royal Institution in 2000 and in 2011 was appointed as the Director of Science and Education, responsible for the development of the Royal Institution’s science communication, science education and science policy activities. She is also Chair of the board that governs the direction of the EuroScience Open Forum and selects host cities – the ESOF Supervisory Board – as well as a member of the Scientific Council for the Gothenburg Science Festival and the Editorial Board of Euroscientist. From 2006 to 2012 she was Vice President of EuroScience, and in 2012 and 2015 she sat on the Canadian Foundation for Innovation Multidisciplinary Assessment Committee. In 2014 she was appointed a Fellow of the Society of Biology.

Scientific inspiration

Originally, my biology teachers, Mr Buckby and Mr Savill, for wonderful field trips on boats and beaches, and for introducing me to John Maynard Smith. Discovering that JMS would lecture me was one of my reasons for going to Sussex University. I loved how he applied the elegance of mathematics to the messiness of biology. Then Chris Ford, my developmental biology lecturer and subsequently DPhil supervisor, for opening my eyes to so many unanswered questions.

Favourite experiment/demo

Definitely ones that make the audience think further about what they’re observing. When Bruce Hood did a live demonstration of locust neurons firing, you could see the students in the audience on the edge of their seats and whispering excitedly to each other.

Best things about the Ri

That the founding principles over 200 years ago are even more relevant today. The original document contains this wonderful statement: ‘To point out the causes which impede this (scientific) progress, and to invite the public to join in effectually removing them, is the purpose of the present address’.
That the Ri staff are so amazingly dedicated and talented. They all love the history of this place, but are able to reinterpret it in fresh and interesting ways in order to capture public attention and engage them in scientific discovery and discussion.
That mirror in the Library. Without a doubt the most beautiful object in the building.

Related content