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Ely Cathedral

SCIENCE FESTIVAL LECTURE - LORD ROBERT WINSTON

29 May 2017 6:30pm

'What makes us happy?'

What led to French philosopher Michel de Montaigne thanking fortune for the pain he suffered? Or why did Mahler apparently stop composing after his meeting in Holland with Sigmund Freud? Why was Alfred J Prufrock in T S Eliot's poem so chronically depressed and suffering so much lack of self-esteem? Shall we ever really understand what makes us happy?

To some extent, the ability to be happy is inherited, but social scientists have emphasized that various environmental influences - health, a stable society, economic advantages, play a major role. Professor Winston examines the role of brain imaging, hormone study, sexuality, child development, pharmacology and psychological research in understanding how science may help us be happier. Happy people tend to live longer, and recent research suggests we tend to get happier as we get older. Is this simply because we become more forgetful? Can we make ourselves happier and if so, will knowledge of brain function and how we might manipulate it give us more fulfilled lives?

Lord Winston is Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London. In the 1970s he developed gynaecological surgical techniques that improved fertility treatments. He later pioneered new treatments to improve in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and developed pre-implantation diagnosis. This allowed embryos to be screened for genetic diseases and has allowed parents carrying faulty genes to have children free of illnesses such as cystic fibrosis. He now runs a research programme at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College that aims to improve human transplantation. Robert Winston has over 300 scientific publications about human reproduction and the early stages of pregnancy. Robert Winston is also Chairman of the Genesis Research Trust - a charity which raised over £13 million to establish the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology and which now funds high quality research into women's health and babies. He is passionate about the communication of science to people of all ages and has written books for children, adults and presented numerous documentaries and radio programs.

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