Adrian Desmond is a science historian and writer. He trained as a palaeontologist and historian of science, studied at London and Harvard Universities (under Stephen Jay Gould), and holds degrees in physiology, vertebrate palaeontology, and history of science, and was awarded a Ph.D. for his research on the radical context of evolution in Darwin’s younger day. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Biology at University College London.
Desmond’s first book, The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs (1975), was translated into seven languages. As the first book-length argument that dinosaurs were warm-blooded and gave rise to the birds, it received massive review coverage and garnered considerable praise. A BBC documentary, also titled The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs, was based on the book. His second popular science book, The Ape’s Reflexion (1979)—on the chimpanzee sign-language experiments—was selected as one of the Year's Best Books by Psychology Today.
Two academic books followed: Archetypes and Ancestors (1982) looked at the way fossils figured in the evolutionary debates in Darwin’s day, while The Politics of Evolution (1989) analyzed the radical context of pre-Darwinian evolutionary theories. The latter won the 1991 Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society in America (the highest honor awarded by the History of Science Society for a work of scholarship).
Darwin (1991), written by Desmond and Moore, was the most cited non-fiction work in all newspaper Christmas round-ups in 1991. Desmond’s matching biography, Huxley: From Devil’s Disciple to Evolution’s High Priest (two volumes, 1994-7), was one of the New York Times’ Best Books of 1997 and was chosen as one of the best books of all time by Science Books & Films (Jan. 1999).
Desmond has written many reviews, newspaper articles and academic papers on the history of evolution, as well as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) entries on Darwin (with Jim Moore and Janet Browne) and Huxley, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Darwin. He was an Associate Editor (responsible for zoologists) on the ODNB.
Desmond is a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, a member of the British Society for the History of Science, the History of Science Society (US), and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (US). In 1993 he was awarded the Founder’s Medal of the Society for the History of Natural History. He lives in the Berkshire countryside.