The Hon. Matthew White Ridley (born February 7, 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington correspondent from 1987 to 1989 and American editor from 1990 to 1992.
He is the son and heir of Viscount Ridley, whose family estate is Blagdon Hall, near Cramlington, Northumberland. Ridley is married to the neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert and lives in England; he has a son and a daughter.
Ridley was non-executive chairman of Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, in the period leading up to the bank's near-collapse.
He was the first chairman of the International Centre for Life, a science park in Newcastle. He is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation, which organises conferences at its stately home in Oxfordshire.
Ridley also edited The Best American Science Writing 2002, one of a series of annual science writing anthologies edited by Jesse Cohen, and contributed a chapter to Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think, a collection of essays in honour of his friend Richard Dawkins (edited by his near-namesake Mark Ridley).
Northern Rock became the first British bank for decades to suffer a run on its finances. Eventually Matt Ridley resigned as chairman in October 2007, having been blamed in parliamentary committee hearings for not recognizing the risks of the bank's financial strategy and thereby "harming the reputation of the British banking industry.
In a 2006 edition of the on-line magazine Edge published by the Edge foundation, Ridley wrote a response to the question "What's your dangerous idea?" which was entitled "Government is the problem not the solution
In it he describes his attitude to government regulation:
Ridley was criticised by environmentalist George Monbiot who claimed that Ridley's elevation of the power of the free market, and contempt for government regulation were ultimately responsible for Northern Rock's risky business model and eventual collapse.
Ridley was then defended in the same newspaper by Dr Terence Kealey who argued that the performance of the government's regulatory agencies had actually confirmed Matt Ridley's scepticism about state intervention, because the government had merely crowded out the market's own regulatory mechanisms, which historically had done a better job
A report produced by the Financial Services Authority confirmed that the collapse of the Bank was due to inadequate regulation.