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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge
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    Dr Peter Forster

    Photo of Peter Forster
    01223 762225
    Murray Edwards College
    New Hall
    University of Cambridge
    CB3 0DF

    Fellow in Genetics; Praelector



    Colleges at their best are like islands of tranquility in a competitive and hectic university environment. I think this is because both the Fellowship and the students are drawn from various subjects and departments, meaning there are few if any conflicts.

    Degrees and honours

    • PhD in Biology (1997), Heinrich-Pette-Institut, Hamburg.

    Awards and prizes

    • Life member of the German National Academy of Sciences (2012).
    • William Bate Hardy Prize (2011) for his work on human origins from the Cambridge Philosophical Society.

    Research interests

    • Peter is a geneticist researching the prehistoric origins and ancestry of mankind.
    • In addition to archaeogenetics, he has published on the reconstruction and spread of prehistoric languages and in the field of forensic genetics.


    Peter Forster studied chemistry at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel and the University of Hamburg. At the Heinrich-Pette-Institut for Virology and Immunology in Hamburg, he specialised in genetics and obtained his PhD degree in 1997 in biology on the topic of "Dispersal and differentiation of modern Homo sapiens analysed with mitochondrial DNA". After postdoctoral research at the Institute for Legal Medicine at the Westphalian Wilhelms-University in Münster, he was appointed Research Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in Cambridge University in 1999, and furthermore a Fellow at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge. He is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Legal Medicine, and a director of Roots for Real. Peter Forster was elected a life member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.


    • Forster P: "Necessary Brain?". Nature 375:444, 1995.
    • The Y Chromosome Consortium: "A nomenclature system for the tree of human Y-chromosomal binary haplogroups." Genome Res 12:339-348, 2002.
    • Forster L, Forster P, Lutz-Bonengel S, Willkomm H, Brinkmann B: "Natural radioactivity and human mitochondrial DNA mutations." Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2002.
    • Forster P: "Ice Ages and the mitochondrial DNA chronology of human dispersals: a review." Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 359:255-264, 2004.
    • Forster P, Renfrew C: "Phylogenetic Methods and the Prehistory of Languages." McDonald Institute Press, University of Cambridge, 2006. ISBN 978-1-902937-33-5
    • Matsumura S, Forster P: "Generation time and effective population size in Polar Eskimos." Proc R Soc B 275:1501-1508, 2008.
    • Forster P, Renfrew C: "Mother Tongue and Y Chromosomes." Science 333:1390-1391, 2011.
    • Forster P, Hohoff C, Dunkelmann B, Schürenkamp M, Pfeiffer H, Neuhuber F, Brinkmann B: "Elevated germline mutation rate in teenage fathers." Proc R Soc B 282:20142898, 2015.

    Read Dr Forster's full publication record on PubMed.