Jim Wilson

Professor of Human Genetics


Jim Wilson is affiliated both to the Usher Institute and the MRC Human Genetics Unit. Of Fair Isle heritage, he grew up in Orkney where he attended the Kirkwall Grammar School, before reading genetics at the University of Edinburgh. After a year working with Svante Pääbo in Bavaria, Jim went up to New College in Oxford where he completed a DPhil in human population genetics with David Goldstein. Jim moved back to Edinburgh in 2003 after a stint at University College London, to take up a Royal Society University Research Fellowship.

He has published over 230 peer-reviewed articles, 46 of which were in the top genetics journal Nature Genetics, 10 in Nature and 2 in Science. His ISI Web of Science h-index is 72, his m-value 3.7, and he is a Thomson-Reuters highly cited researcher (highlycited.com) from 2014-2017.

Over the last decade Jim led two large genetic epidemiology studies in Orkney and Shetland. These platform resources for health research benefit from rich phenotyping, deep genotyping, a tissue biobank and prospective follow up through record linkage and have contributed to the discovery of over 1000 novel associations. More recently he has initiated a number of international consortia to explore interests in the genetic architecture of complex traits.

Jim is engaged in science communication principally through radio and TV series explaining genetics to the public (e.g. Blood of the Vikings, On the Ocean, Is it better to be mixed race?, Gatwick Baby, British More or Less, Twincredibles, Meet the Izzards, the IFTA-winning Blood of the Irish and Blood of the Travellers, a book and radio series, The Scots, A Genetic Journey) and was involved in the genetic ancestry testing business for over a decade.


  • Bachelor

    • 1997 Bachelor of Science (honours), 1st, University of Edinburgh
  • Doctorate
    • 2002 Doctor of Philosophy, DPhil, University of Oxford

View all 381 publications on Research Explorer