The Joseph Priestley Lecture Series,
Science at the Solstice
The Priestley Lecture series is inspired by the traditional Christmas Lectures of the Royal Institution in London, initiated by Michael Faraday. Our series is named after Joseph Priestley (image at left), an 18th century Unitarian minister, early chemist, discoverer of oxygen, and refugee from England for holding such beliefs as a denial of mind-body duality.
For this annual celebration of science at the winter solstice, we invite active researchers and educators to amaze us with contemporary advances in worldly knowledge. Previous Priestley lecturers have included Robert Curl, co-discoverer of buckyballs; John Lienhard, engineer and radio host of "The Engines of Our Ingenuity;" Robert Hardt, mathematician; Connie Barlow, evolution educator; David Wheeler of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. David Eagleman, also with Baylor College of Medicine; and Dr. Vicki Colvin, our most recent lecturer.
Click here to hear a recording of her presentation given on December 9, 2012.
Understanding and controlling matter at the nanometer scale offers a new industrial revolution in our economy and our daily lives. But as with prior revolutions in synthetic chemistry, nuclear physics, and genetic engineering, the net value of innovation will depend on wisely addressing the social consequences. Who will benefit, and who will pay the costs?
Dr. Colvin took us from the discovery of buckminsterfullerene to more recent work in nanoscience, including buckyballs as molecular cages and nanoparticles of seemingly mundane materials such as iron and titanium oxides: rust and sunscreen. She helped sort the short-term hype from the long-term promise of these technologies, especially in connection with those other tiny wonders, living cells. With broader popular appreciation of the basic science, we can hope to reap the benefits of new materials and medicines while managing the dangers.