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Spencer Wells

Spencer Wells

Overview
Spencer Wells is a geneticist
Geneticist
A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics, the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms. A geneticist can be employed as a researcher or lecturer. Some geneticists perform experiments and analyze data to interpret the inheritance of skills. A geneticist is also a Consultant or...

 and anthropologist, an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

, and Frank H.T. Rhodes
Frank H.T. Rhodes
Frank Harold Trevor Rhodes was the ninth president of Cornell University from 1977 to 1995.-Biography:Rhodes was born in Warwickshire, England on October 29, 1926. He attended the University of Birmingham, graduating in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree...

 Class of '56 Professor at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

. He leads The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project, launched on April 13, 2005 by the National Geographic Society and IBM, is a multi-year genetic anthropology study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the...

.

Wells grew up in Lubbock, Texas
Lubbock, Texas
Lubbock is a city in and the county seat of Lubbock County, Texas, United States. The city is located in the northwestern part of the state, a region known historically as the Llano Estacado, and the home of Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University...

. He obtained a Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 in Biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 from the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

 in 1988, and a Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in Biology from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1994. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 between 1994 and 1998, and a research fellow at Oxford University between 1999 and 2000.

Wells did his Ph.D.
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Encyclopedia
Spencer Wells is a geneticist
Geneticist
A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics, the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms. A geneticist can be employed as a researcher or lecturer. Some geneticists perform experiments and analyze data to interpret the inheritance of skills. A geneticist is also a Consultant or...

 and anthropologist, an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

, and Frank H.T. Rhodes
Frank H.T. Rhodes
Frank Harold Trevor Rhodes was the ninth president of Cornell University from 1977 to 1995.-Biography:Rhodes was born in Warwickshire, England on October 29, 1926. He attended the University of Birmingham, graduating in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree...

 Class of '56 Professor at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

. He leads The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project, launched on April 13, 2005 by the National Geographic Society and IBM, is a multi-year genetic anthropology study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the...

.

Education


Wells grew up in Lubbock, Texas
Lubbock, Texas
Lubbock is a city in and the county seat of Lubbock County, Texas, United States. The city is located in the northwestern part of the state, a region known historically as the Llano Estacado, and the home of Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University...

. He obtained a Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 in Biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 from the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

 in 1988, and a Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in Biology from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1994. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 between 1994 and 1998, and a research fellow at Oxford University between 1999 and 2000.

Work


Wells did his Ph.D. work under Richard Lewontin
Richard Lewontin
Richard Charles "Dick" Lewontin is an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist and social commentator. A leader in developing the mathematical basis of population genetics and evolutionary theory, he pioneered the notion of using techniques from molecular biology such as gel electrophoresis to...

, and later did postdoctoral research with Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is an Italian population geneticist born in Genoa, who has been a professor at Stanford University since 1970 .-Books:...

 and Sir Walter Bodmer
Walter Bodmer
Sir Walter Bodmer is a German-born British human geneticist. His father being Jewish, the family left Germany in 1938 and settled in Manchester. Bodmer has developed models for population genetics and done work on the human leukocyte antigen system and the use of somatic cell hybrids for human...

. His work, which has helped to establish the critical role played by Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 in the peopling of the world, has been published in journals such as Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

, American Journal of Human Genetics
American Journal of Human Genetics
The American Journal of Human Genetics is a medical journal in the field of human genetics. Since its inception in 1948 by the American Society of Human Genetics, the journal has provided a record of research and review relating to heredity in humans and to the application of genetic principles in...

, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, usually referred to as PNAS, is the official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences...

.

He wrote the book The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey is a book by Spencer Wells, an American geneticist and anthropologist, in which he uses techniques and theories of genetics and evolutionary biology to trace the geographical dispersal of early human migrations out of Africa...

(2002), which explains how genetic data has been used to trace human migrations over the past 50,000 years, when modern humans first migrated outside of Africa. According to Wells, one group took a southern route and populated southern India and southeast Asia, then Australia. The other group, accounting for 90% of the world's non-African population (some 5 billion people as of late 2006), took a northern route, eventually peopling most of Eurasia (largely displacing the aboriginals in southern India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia in the process), North Africa and the Americas. Wells also wrote and presented the PBS/National Geographic documentary of the same name. By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man who lived in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 around 60,000 - 90,000 years ago, a man also known as Y-chromosomal Adam
Y-chromosomal Adam
In human genetics, Y-chromosomal Adam is the theoretical most recent common ancestor from whom all living people are descended patrilineally . Many studies report that Y-chromosomal Adam lived as early as around 142,000 years ago and possibly as recently as 60,000 years ago...

.

Since 2005, Wells has headed The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project
The Genographic Project, launched on April 13, 2005 by the National Geographic Society and IBM, is a multi-year genetic anthropology study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the...

, undertaken by the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

, IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

, and the Waitt Family Foundation, which aims to creating a picture of how our ancestors populated the planet by analyzing DNA samples from around the world. He presents the knowledge gained from the project around the world, including at the 2007 TED conference
TED (conference)
TED is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading"....

, where he spoke specifically about human diversity.

He is quoted as saying: "As often happens in science, technology has opened up a field to new ways of answering old questions—often providing startling answers."

As director of the Genographic Project he said this about the possibility of two human species living today together: "We don't know how long it takes for hominids to fission
Speciation
Speciation is the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. The biologist Orator F. Cook seems to have been the first to coin the term 'speciation' for the splitting of lineages or 'cladogenesis,' as opposed to 'anagenesis' or 'phyletic evolution' occurring within lineages...

 off into separate species, but clearly they were separated for a very long time" This question may be estimated by comparing other species with similar speed of reproduction.

He was a keynote speaker at the Science & Technology Summit
Meet the Future, Science & Technology Summit 2010
Meet the Future, Science & Technology Summit 2010 was a one day science and technology convention held at the World Forum Convention Center in The Hague, Netherlands on November 18, 2010, organized by Platform Bèta Techniek , an organization which has been empowered by the Dutch government to...

in The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 on November 18, 2010. Wells also gave the keynote address at the University of Texas College of Natural Sciences commencement exercises on May 21, 2011.

Awards

  • National Merit Scholar
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a United States non-profit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was founded by the American businessman Howard Hughes in 1953. It is one of the largest private funding organizations for biological and medical research in the United...

     Predoctoral Fellowship
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
    Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
    The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic non-profit organization in the United States. It was established in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors.-Overview:...

     Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • Fellow of The Explorers Club
    The Explorers Club
    The Explorers Club is a professional society dedicated to scientific exploration of Earth, its oceans, and outer space. Founded in 1904 in New York City, it currently has 30 branches world wide...

  • Kistler Prize
    Kistler Prize
    The Kistler Prize is awarded annually to recognize original contributions "to the understanding of the connection between human heredity and human society," and includes a cash award of US $100,000 and a 200-gram gold medallion....

  • Outstanding Young Texas Ex
    Texas Exes
    The Ex-Students' Association of The University of Texas is the association of former students of the University of Texas at Austin....


Books

  • The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
    The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
    The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey is a book by Spencer Wells, an American geneticist and anthropologist, in which he uses techniques and theories of genetics and evolutionary biology to trace the geographical dispersal of early human migrations out of Africa...

    , 2002 (Penguin, UK; Princeton University Press and Random House, US; Fischer Verlag, Germany; Longanesi, Italy; Oceano, Spain/Latin America; Ucila International, Slovenia; Dokoran, Czech Republic; Akkord, Hungary; Oriental Press, China; Basilico, Japan; ScienceBooks, Korea; Yurt, Turkey; CD Press, Romania)
  • Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project, 2006 (National Geographic)
  • Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, 2010 (Random House, US; Penguin, UK; Contact, Netherlands; Codice, Italy; Eksmo, Russia; Nika Center, Ukraine; Commonwealth, Taiwan; Eulyoo, Korea; Kagaku-Dojin, Japan)

Films

  • 2000 - The Difference (Channel Four, UK)
  • 2002 - The Real King and Queen (Discovery Channel)
  • 2003 - Journey of Man (PBS/National Geographic Channel) - CINE
    CINE
    CINE is a consortium formulated to depict American life and thought realistically for a global audience. CINE recognizes and fosters the highest quality of non-theatrical film and video production through its semi-annual film competitions....

     Golden Eagle award
  • 2004 - Quest for the Phoenicians (PBS)
  • 2005 - Search for Adam (National Geographic Channel)
  • 2007 - China's Secret Mummies (National Geographic Channel) - nominated for Outstanding Historical Programming Emmy
  • 2009 - The Human Family Tree (National Geographic Channel) - nominated for Outstanding Science and Technology Programming Emmy

See also

  • Recent single-origin hypothesis
  • Y-chromosomal Adam
    Y-chromosomal Adam
    In human genetics, Y-chromosomal Adam is the theoretical most recent common ancestor from whom all living people are descended patrilineally . Many studies report that Y-chromosomal Adam lived as early as around 142,000 years ago and possibly as recently as 60,000 years ago...

  • The Genographic Project
    The Genographic Project
    The Genographic Project, launched on April 13, 2005 by the National Geographic Society and IBM, is a multi-year genetic anthropology study that aims to map historical human migration patterns by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people from around the...


External links