Originality in science is synonymous with being first; originality in the arts is somewhat different. At what point do these two creative endeavours overlap? Ian McEwan is a novelist who has often taken science as a subject: Enduring Love was about a science writer, Saturday about a brain surgeon. His latest novel, Solar, is about global warming and its protagonist is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has given up original work to enjoy his own celebrity. McEwan’s first book, the short stories First Love, Last Rites, was hailed for ‘an originality astonishing for a young man still in his twenties’. Yet original work by scientists is most often achieved while they are still young: do they develop differently? Richard Fortey’s original work is on fossils. He is a research palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum whose books include Trilobite!, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, and Earth: an intimate history. A Fellow both of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Literature, he is a former President of the Geological Society of London.

We are grateful to the Royal Literary Fund for sponsoring this lecture.

Recorded on Monday 10 May 2010.