Past Speakers


2017, Hopi Hoekstra, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biology, Harvard University
Hoekstra is an evolutionary geneticist who studies the molecular basis of adaptation in wild mice. Since 2006 she has been an Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University. She became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in 2013, and in 2016, she was elected into the National Academy of Sciences. In 1994, Hoekstra received her B.A. with Highest Honors at the University of California Berkeley and got her PhD in Zoology at the University of Washington in 2000. She was a NIH NRSA Fellow at the University of Arizona, and then an assistant professor at UC San Diego before joining the faculty at Harvard. She is an internationally renowned biologist who has made major strides in developing an approach that connects evolution in the wild to mechanisms at the molecular level.
Click to see the detail of the lecture.
2016, David Jablonski, Professor, Dept. of the Geophysical Sciences and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago
David Jablonski is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology (a multi-institutional PhD program) at the University of Chicago. He combines data on living and fossil marine organisms to ask large-scale evolutionary questions about origins, extinctions, and geographic distributions. He grew up in New York City a few blocks from the American Museum of Natural History; he knew he wanted to be a paleontologist by the age of five. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. He has published more than 140 scientific papers and book chapters on topics ranging from mass extinctions to the origin and maintenance of the diversity gradient from poles to tropics and the role of multilevel processes in evolution. Co-sponsors: Department of Ecology and Evolution, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Department of Geosciences.
Click to see the detail of the lecture, movie on youtube
2015, Mark Pagel, Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Director of the Evolution Laboratory, University of Reading, UK
Mark Pagel is one of the very most distinguished evolutionary biologists in the world and has made ground-breaking contributions to how we think about the evolutionary relationships of organisms and how their forms evolved. He has contributed strongly to our understanding of how to construct evolutionary trees and has applied these accomplishments to understanding the evolution of our written language. By reckoning our language into individual elements, he has used evolutionary principles to study how our language came to be so complex today, producing thousands of languages that are not mutually understandable by all of humanity. His work is very popular and he has given two well-received TED lectures. Professor Pagel is a Professor of Biology at the University of Reading, U.K. and leads the Evolutionary Biology Group. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and his work is widely cited in the scientific community and in the popular press. He comes from Seattle and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Mathematics. His recent book "Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind," published in 2012 by W. W. Norton, was judged to be one of the best science books by The Guardian. He is editor of the Encyclopedia of Evolution, published in 2002 by Oxford University Press.
2014, David Jablonski, Professor, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago
David Jablonski combines data on living and fossil marine organisms to ask large-­‐ scale evolutionary questions about origins, extinctions, and geographic distributions. He grew up in New York City a few blocks from the American Museum of Natural History; he knew he wanted to be a paleontologist by the age of five. He got a BA from Columbia University and a PhD from Yale. He was a postdoc at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Miller Fellow at Berkeley before joining the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology faculty at the University of Arizona. He moved to the University of Chicago in 1985, where he is now the William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor in the Dept of Geophysical Sciences and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology (a multi-­‐institutional PhD program). He chaired CEB for 6 years, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. He has published more than 140 scientific papers and book chapters on topics ranging from mass extinctions to the origin and maintenance of the diversity gradient from poles to tropics, and the role of multilevel processes in evolution.
2013, John J. Shea, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University
John J. Shea is Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York and Research Associate of the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. He is an alumnus of Boston University (BA 1978) and Harvard University (Ph.D. 1991). Shea’s research focuses on the archaeology of human evolution, namely the origin of our species, Homo sapiens, and the extinction of the Neanderthals. He is an expert at making, using, and analyzing stone tools whose work has been featured in more than a dozen television documentaries and in exhibits in the American Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution). Shea has conducted archaeological surveys and excavations in Israel, Jordan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya. His new book, Stone Tools in the Paleolithic and Neolithic Near East has just been published by Cambridge University Press.
2012, Mark A. Norell, Chairman and Curator-in-Charge, FARB
Mark Norell is curator and chair of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in NewYork. His research includes naming new dinosaurs, deciphering growth patterns in dinosaurs, studying the relationships of small carnivorous dinosaurs to modern birds, and developing ways of looking at fossils using CT scans and imaging computers. He has published more than 150 articles, and his work has been listed repeatedly among the top 10 yearly science stories by Time, Discover, and Scientific American. Norell's lecture will focus on how a combination of new fossil discoveries, instruments, and methodologies has changed the way we view birds, which are now considered to be a contemporary group of living dinosaurs, whose non-avian relatives share many of their attributes.
2011, Carl Zimmer, Author and Science Journalist
Noted author and science journalist Carl Zimmer writes about science for the New York Times and is a contributing editor at Discover, where he writes the blog, "The Loom." He is the author of nine books, including Parasite Rex, Evolution: The Triumph of An Idea, and the upcoming A Planet of Viruses. Also see his blog, The Loom.

To celebrate Darwin's birthday, he will discuss the work of one of Darwin's great followers, the late Stony Brook University biologist, George Williams. Williams showed how natural selection could help make sense of every stage in the lives of all living things, including ourselves--from birth through childhood to adulthood and finally to old age and death. As a result of these seminal ideas, an important new discipline is emerging: evolutionary medicine.

2010, Douglas Futuyma, Distinguished Professor, Stony Brook University
What progress has been achieved in evolutionary biology since the publication of On the Origin of Species, 150 years ago? Modern evolutionary biology has both affirmed all the major hypotheses in Darwin's evolutionary theory, and progressed so far that Darwin would not understand most of what we discuss today. In the 1930's and 1940's, the new science of genetics was joined with Darwin's theory in an "Evolutionary Synthesis" that has remained the framework of modern evolutionary thought. The growth of molecular biology and technical advances in computation and information processing have enabled extraordinary progress. I will consider some of the challenges to the Evolutionary Synthesis, and I conclude that its major tenets remain largely intact and have served as the framework of an extraordinary expansion of knowledge and understanding of evolution. Evolutionary biology is increasingly fulfilling its promise as the unifying theory of the biological sciences.
2009, Stephen Stearns, Professor of Biology, Yale University
Prof. Stearns specializes in life history evolution, which links the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology, in evolutionary medicine, and in evolutionary functional genomics. Evolutionary medicine explains human disease and prescribed medical practice according to the principles of evolutionary biology. His books include "Evolution, an introduction" (Oxford, 2000) with Rolf Hoekstra, "Watching, from the Edge of Extinction" (Yale, 1999) with his wife Beverly Peterson Stearns, "The Evolution of Life Histories" (Oxford, 1992), and two edited volumes, "Evolution in health and disease" (Oxford, 1998) and "The Evolution of Sex and its Consequences."
2008, David Sloan Wilson, Professor of Biology, Binghamton University
To be updated.
2007, Sean Carroll, Howard Hughes Professor, University of Wisconsin
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has emerged as a key model system for elucidating the genetics and molecular biology of animal development. Advances in our knowledge of how this complex animal develops have made possible comparative studies to identify common features of animal design and to determine how morphological diversity evolves. Our laboratory has worked toward a detailed mechanistic understanding of some of the major features of Drosophila development. This has provided the foundation for the study of the genetic and developmental basis of animal diversity, as well as new insights into animal origins and relationships. This approach has resulted in a deeper understanding of how developmental genes and patterning mechanisms evolve and has uncovered some of the first direct evidence for the central role of changes in the regulation of genes in the diversification of body plans and body parts and in the origin of new structures and pattern elements.
2006, Eugenie Scott, Director, National Center for Science Education
Dr. Scott, a former university professor, is the Executive Director of NCSE. She has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over twenty-five years, and can address many components of this controversy, including educational, legal, scientific, religious, and social issues. She has received national recognition for her NCSE activities, including awards from the National Science Board, the American Society for Cell Biology, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Geological Society of America, and the American Humanist Association. A dynamic speaker, she offers stimulating and thought-provoking as well as entertaining lectures and workshops. Scott is the author of Evolution vs Creationism and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.
2005, Daniel Dennett, Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University

Daniel C. Dennett, the author of Breaking the Spell (Viking, 2006), Freedom Evolves (Viking Penguin, 2003) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Simon &Schuster, 1995), is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He lives with his wife in North Andover, Massachusetts, and has a daughter, a son, and a grandson. He was born in Boston in 1942, the son of a historian by the same name, and received his B.A. in philosophy from Harvard in 1963. He then went to Oxford to work with Gilbert Ryle, under whose supervision he completed the D.Phil. in philosophy in 1965. He taught at U.C. Irvine from 1965 to 1971, when he moved to Tufts, where he has taught ever since, aside from periods visiting at Harvard, Pittsburgh, Oxford, and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

His first book, Content and Consciousness, appeared in 1969, followed by Brainstorms (1978), Elbow Room (1984), The Intentional Stance (1987), Consciousness Explained (1991), Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), Kinds of Minds (1996), and Brainchildren: A Collection of Essays 1984-1996 (MIT Press and Penguin, 1998). Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness, was published in 2005 by MIT Press. He co-edited The Mind's I with Douglas Hofstadter in 1981. He is the author of over three hundred scholarly articles on various aspects on the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.