Category: Science Writing


From Lewis Dartnell, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Knowledge, a book that takes us back through time to explore how the Earth itself has directed the human story.

When we talk about human history, we focus on great leaders, revolutions, and technological advances. But how has the Earth itself determined our destiny? How has our planet made us? 

As a species we are shaped by our environment. Geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa; mountainous terrain led to the development of democracy in Greece; and today voting behaviour in the United States follows the bed of an ancient sea. The human story is the story of these forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

How are the Himalayas linked to the orbit of the Earth, and to the formation of the British Isles? By taking us billions of years into our planet’s past, Professor Lewis Dartnell tells us the ultimate origin story. When we reach the point where history becomes science we see a vast web of connections that underwrites our modern world and helps us face the challenges of the future.

From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, Origins reveals the Earth’s awesome impact on the shape of human civilisations.

  • Sunday Times top History book
  • Waterstones ‘Best of 2019’ book
  • iNews 11 best popular science books for 2019
  • Mail on Sunday recommended Science and Nature book for summer reads
  • Book of the Week, The Times
  • Book of the Week, Evening Standard
  • Book of the Month, BBC Sky at Night magazine

OUT NOW in Paperback:


*** Come see me speak live about the book at one of the tour events ***

Beyond the UK and USA editions (as well as Braille available from the RNIB), ORIGINS is available in the following 25 translations (publisher):

Bulgaria (Iztok-Zapad) China [simplified] (Fantasee Media)
Croatia (Planetopija) Denmark (Klim)
France (JC Lattes) Germany (Hanser)
Greece (Patakis) Hungary (Akkord)
Iran (Persian) Italy (Il Saggiatore)
Japan (Kawade Shobo) Lithuania (Alma Littera)
Netherlands (Thomas Rap) Poland (Zysk)
Portugal (Planeta) Romania (Litera)
Russia (AST) Serbia (Laguna)
Slovakia (Premedia Group) Slovenia (UMco)
South Korea (Next Wave) Spain (Debate)
Sweden (Volante) Turkey (Can Yayinlari)
Ukraine (Nash Format)


“Origins is one of those rare books that dissolves mystery through the steady application of sublime lucidity… Dartnell understands geology, geography, anthropology, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and history. That’s quite an achievement, but what makes him special is the way he communicates the interconnectedness of these disciplines in a clear, logical and entertaining way… Superb.”
THE TIMES, Book of the Week

“An excitingly grand argument driven by delight in detail. This thrilling look at how geography shaped us stands comparison with Harari’s ‘Sapiens'”

“Dartnell’s story is beautifully written and organized. His infectious curiosity and enthusiasm tug the reader from page to page, synthesizing geology, oceanography, meteorology, geography, palaeontology, archaeology and political history in a manner that recalls Jared Diamond’s classic 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

“Dartnell has found the perfect blend of science and history. This is a book that will not only challenge our preconceptions about the past, but should make us think very carefully about humanity’s future”
Simon Griffiths, MAIL ON SUNDAY

“Dartnell is an eloquent, conversational guide to these daunting aeons of time. Never has geological history seemed so current.”

“Dartnell’s approach is encyclopedic, marked by both a broad sweep and a passion for details.”

An “absorbing account of the planetary processes that have shaped humanity… Stimulating, entertaining stuff. Dartnell has an easy, light touch that mixes well with his considerable knowledge of our planet’s geological history”

“A sweeping, brilliant overview of the history of not only of our species but of the world. Whether discussing the formation of continents or the role that climate (and climate change) has had on human migration, Lewis Dartnell has a rare talent in being able to see the big picture – and explaining why it matters.”
Peter Frankopan, Author of The Silk Roads

“An original and timely way of looking at human history through the materials and natural resources that our species has employed to such effect. It should be read by everyone who ponders how long exploitation can continue on a finite planet”
Richard Fortey, author of The Earth: An Intimate History

“Endlessly enthralling, Lewis Dartnell explains why the history of humanity, and of human cultures, both take dictation from the deeper history of Earth herself – from broad generalities to surprisingly specific details. An entertaining and informative essay on contingency – and worthy successor to the writing of Stephen Jay Gould”
Ted Neild, author of Supercontinent

“What a treat to see history through the eyes of an astrobiologist! Lewis Dartnell’s absorbing new book shows, with many vivid examples, how deeply human history is embedded in the history of planet earth.”
David Christian, author of Big History

OUT NOW in Paperback:


Book tour events

Teachers’ educational resources

I have created a dedicated site containing educational resources for teachers based on the research and material within ORIGINS. Please explore

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch

The_Knowledge_bookMaybe an asteroid hit Earth. Perhaps a nuclear war reduced our cities to radioactive rubble. Or avian flu killed most of the population. Whatever the cause, the world as we know it has ended and now the survivors must start again. But how do we set about rebuilding our world from scratch?

Once you’ve salvaged what you can from the debris, how do you grow food and make clothes? How do you generate energy and develop medicines? And once you’ve mastered the essentials, how do you smelt metals, make gunpowder, or build a primitive radio set?

The Knowledge is a guidebook for survivors. We have become disconnected not only from the beautiful fundamentals of science and technology but even from the basic skills and knowledge on which our lives and our world depend.

The Knowledge is a journey of discovery, a book which explains everything you need to know about everything. Here is the blueprint for rebooting civilisation.

It will transform your understanding of the world – and help you prepare for when it’s no longer here.

The Knowledge is a New York Times and Sunday Times best-seller, and the Sunday Times ‘New Thinking’ Book of the Year.

Out now in paperback at all good book stores and online.
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes&Noble

The Knowledge is also available in  Translations in a number of in different languages. Listen to a three minute audio description of the book here

Main book website


A full list of my published articles is here. Or, to explore by the newspaper or magazine, click on the logos in the image below:



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I have published five books:

Both The Knowledge and Origins were Sunday Times bestsellers. The Knowledge was also The Times ‘New Thinking’ Book of the Year, and Origins was a Sunday Times top history book of the year and a Waterstones ‘Best of 2019’ book.

Life in the UniverseTourists GuideThe Knowledge


… and my PhD thesis (UCL; 2007) has  been been reprinted by academic publishers as Martian Death Rays.

I’ve also contributed sections or chapters to several other books:


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Alongside my academic research, I am a prolific science writer. I have won prizes from the The Daily Telegraph, Oxford University Press, NewScientist and  Times Higher Education for my science writing, and I regularly contribute articles to a range of newspapers and magazines. For a full listing of my published articles look here.

I have also published two popular science books and one illustrated children’s book. You can explore these here.


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My Tourist Guide to the Solar System

UK_MY_TOURISTSPACE_small_frontThis title contains everything you need to know for an out-of-this-world travel experience. “My Tourist Guide to the Solar System” brings you amazing digital artwork with fun facts to present space as you’ve never seen it before. Take a day trip to the planets and hike along the Mariner Valley on Mars and grab yourself a souvenir icy pebble from a flight through Saturn’s rings. Amazing illustrations and digital artworks will take you on a spellbinding tour of the planets, moons, and asteroids. This goes beyond the realm of regular space books – it’s out of this world.

[Get this on Amazon]

Microbes to Mars

Microbes_to_MarsRussian space scientists are currently locked in a race against time. The Fobos-Grunt space probe was launched successfully on Tuesday, but then failed to fire its own rocket engine to leave Earth orbit. The unmanned spacecraft is currently stranded just above our heads, and the rocket scientists have only a fortnight to successfully contact the stricken probe and fire its propulsion system before the batteries fail and it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere as an expensive shooting star.

Read full story on The Huffington Post website