Maxim Vinarski, Head of the Laboratory of Macro-Ecology and Biogeography of Invertebrates at St Petersburg University, won in the 14th season of the Enlightener Prize in the Natural and Exact Sciences for "The Gospel of LUCA. Looking for the genealogy of animal world."


In the book by Professor Vinarski, LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) is our common ancestor. To find out what kind of creature it was, the reader learns about the history of emergence and evolution of complex animals. It soon becomes clear that humans are just one of the many branches on the great tree of life, and that the Homo sapience species formed based on the laws guiding the evolution of everything living.  The readers understand how biologists find kinship between animals and recreate their evolutionary paths. They learn about the life and discoveries of the scientists who arrived at the idea of evolutionary kinship among all organisms on the Earth and invented a way to reveal these ties. 

The book is addressed to a wide range of educated readers, non-biologists who would like to learn about the most recent achievements in the modern evolutionary theory and get acquainted with the main stages of the animal world development from the very first many-celled organisms to homo sapience. 

Professor Maxim Vinarski, Head of the Laboratory of Macro-Ecology and Biogeography of Invertebrates at St Petersburg University

‘When working on the book, I tried to write in a strictly scientific and at the same time accessible and even entertaining manner avoiding simplifications. Receiving the prize has become not only a pleasant surprise, but also a confirmation that popular science literature, including the field of biology, sees a revival in Russia. Some 10 to 12 years ago, I assumed that this genre dragged out a wretched existence if not died out entirely in our country. It was quite sad, since popularisation of knowledge is a certain self-reproduction tool for scientists and for science in general. Such books attract younger generation to science, university classrooms and laboratories. In my school years, reading high quality popular science books played a significant role in my career choice. The current season of the Enlightener Prize with about 200 books by Russian authors submitted for competition shows the richness and diversity of our popular scientific literature today. It makes me much happier than the fact that my book received such a prestigious award,’ said Professor Maxim Vinarski, the winner of the Enlightener Prize.

‘The book by Maxim Vinarski is truly an example of high-quality popular science literature with undeniable scientific credibility. ‘The Gospel of LUCA’ is a part of the major development trend of the recent years in Russia: books in biology take the victory podium proving to be the best. No matter how hard we wanted to find a different discipline, a book in biology has won once again this year,’ noted Oleg Kharkhordin, Doctor of Science (Philosophy), Chairperson of the Prize Award Panel, Professor in the Department of Political Science at the European University in St Petersburg.  

Learn more about the short-list and about the opinions of the award panel members on the books by other winners on the Enlightener Prize portal.