Gillian Beer is an academic and two-time Booker Prize judge. For some 50 years she taught English literature at Cambridge, specialising in Victorian writers.

Beer made her name in 1983 with Darwin’s Plots, which charted the impact of evolutionary theory on Victorian thought. Indeed, Ali Smith has described her less as a traditional lit crit scholar than as ‘an illuminator of the connection between the arts and the sciences’. Lewis Carroll, with whom she shares a birthday, is another scholarly concern. Beer, who was born into an East End family and brought up by a divorced mother, was made a dame in 1998 and is typically modest about her ascent: ‘I’m a historical remnant from the great days of free education.’