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Emeritus Fellow, Downing College, University of Cambridge

Dr Ken McNamara is a retired University Senior Lecturer in the Department of Earth Sciences and former Director of the Sedgwick Museum. He is an Emeritus Fellow Downing College. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia. The underlying thread that runs through much of his research is the relationship between evolution and development, with particular reference to the fossil record.

Current projects include: the role of developmental change in macroevolution, with particular emphasis on heterochrony; analysis of patterns of evolution and extinction in trilobites before and after the Late Devonian mass extinction event, 370 million years ago; diversity, palaeoecology and patterns of gastropod predation on Eocene and Miocene sea urchins; biotic responses to mass extinctions in Late Cretaceous serpulid worms, with particular emphasis on phenotypic variation as an indicator of environmental stress; Permian echinoderms from Western Australia; the archaeology and folklore of fossils, with an emphasis on sea urchins; and the contribution of Dr John Woodward (1667-1728) to the early development of geology.

He has written, co-written or edited a number of books, including 'Unearthing the Underworld: a Natural History of Rocks' (2023); 'Dragons' Teeth and Thunderstones: the Quest for the Meaning of Fossils' (2020); 'The Star-Crossed Stone' (2010); 'Prehistoric Mammals of Western Australia' (2010); 'Australia's Meteorite Craters' (2009); Pinnacles' (2009); 'Stromatolites' (2009); 'The Evolution Revolution' (2007); 'Human Evolution and Developmental Change' (2002); 'Ancient Floras of Western Australia' (2001); 'Shapes of Time: the Evolution of Growth and Development' (1997); 'Evolutionary Change and Heterochrony' (1995); 'Heterochrony: the Evolution of Ontogeny' (1991).


  • 1979–2007
    Senior Curator, Western Australian Museum


    University of Cambridge, PhD