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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 25. Richard Dawkins

God botherer.

One of Richard Dawkins's early childhood memories is of clambering through muddy ditches with a young David Attenborough as they hunted for tadpoles. What better inspi­ration for a young nature lover who went on to become one of Britain's most influential scientists? Dawkins has written books on his specialist subjects - genetics and evolution - that will be read for years to come, from The Selfish Gene to The Greatest Show on Earth. If he had stuck to science, he might have taken a conventional academic path, but his vociferous commitment to atheism has propelled him into the global consciousness. As of January 2010, his 2006 book The God Delusion has sold more than two million copies of the English version alone, and been translated into 31 languages.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter