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ENRICO COEN is a plant biologist who has worked in the areas of evolution, development and computational modelling for the past 25 years. He is currently a project leader in cell and developmental biology at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. His work is regularly published in top scientific journals such as Science, Nature and Cell. He lectures throughout the world at scientific meetings and research establishments and gives popular talks to more general audiences. He has written articles for popular science magazines and helped to publicize his work in national newspapers. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1998 and foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2001. He was also awarded the EMBO Medal in 1996, the Science for Art Prize in 1996, the Linnean Gold Medal in 1997 and the Royal Society Darwin Medal in 2004. He is the author of a popular science book on the principles of development, THE ART OF GENES (Oxford University Press, 1999). Besides his scientific activities, he likes to paint.

Featured titles


The Principles of Change That Shape Life

Shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books


A glimpse of that mysterious and awesome circle through which evolution generates not only life, but also self-understanding – Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London


Charming, clever and thought-provoking – Stephen C. Stearns, Edward P. Bass Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University


Valuable to both general readers and specialists. Its breadth is unmatched – Michael Corballis, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Auckland


The first unified account of how life transforms itself – from the production of bacteria to the emergence of complex civilizations.


What are the connections between evolving microbes, an egg that develops into an infant and a child who learns to walk and talk? In CELLS TO CIVILIZATIONS, the award-winning scientist Enrico Coen synthesizes the growth of living systems and creative processes and reveals that the four great life transformations – evolution, development, learning and human culture – while typically understood separately, actually all revolve around shared core principles and manifest the same fundamental recipe. Coen blends provocative discussion, the latest scientific research and colourful examples to demonstrate the links between these critical stages in the history of life.


Coen tells a story rich with genes, embryos, neurons and fascinating discoveries. He examines the development of the zebra, the adaptations of seaweed, the cave paintings of Lascaux and the formulations of Alan Turing. He explores how dogs make predictions, how weeds tell the time of day  and how our brains distinguish a Modigliani from a Rembrandt. Locating commonalities in important findings, Coen gives readers a deeper understanding of key transformations and provides a bold portrait for how science both frames and is framed by human culture.


A compelling investigation into the relationships between our biological past and cultural progress, Cells to Civilizations presents a remarkable story of living change.


Publisher: Princeton University Press (UK/US)

Publication Date: 7 May 2012

Length: 344 pages


All rights available excluding:

World English Language (Princeton University Press), Germany (Hanser), Korea (Chung-A Publishing Co.), Spain (Critica)