Butler University’s fall 2014 J. James Woods Lectures in the Sciences and Mathematics will present 2014 Indianapolis Prize winner Patricia C. Wright, genome authority John Dupré, and a discussion of Isaac Newton’s writings by Math Historian William Dunham.
The series begins with Wright on September 29, followed by Dupré on November 10, and Dunham on December 2. The lectures are free and open to the public without tickets. For more information, call 317-940-9657.
More about each event follows.
Stony Brook University distinguished professor and primate expert Patricia C. Wright won the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, which is given every two years to recognize global leaders in animal conservation. She won the $250,000 cash award for her work in protecting the endangered lemurs of Madagascar.
In 1991, her advocacy led to the creation of Ranomafana National Park, which covers about 160 square miles in southeastern Madagascar.
Wright founded the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments and Centre ValBio, a rain forest research station with a 15,000-square-foot “green” building that can house 52 scientists and boasts three laboratories, a conference room and a veranda for lectures and symposiums.
Wright and the lemurs were featured in a 3-D IMAX documentary released nationwide in April titled “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar.” The film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, aimed to inspire a mainstream audience to advance the conservation efforts for lemurs, primates that have been around since the time of the dinosaurs. In the same month, Stony Brook University honored her at its annual gala.
The Indianapolis Prize is given every other year to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts involving a single animal species or multiple species. The prize was first awarded in 2006 to George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and one of the world’s great field biologists. In 2008, the Indianapolis Prize went to George Schaller, the world’s pre-eminent field biologist and vice president of science and exploration for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The 2010 winner was Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder and president of Save the Elephants and the world’s pre-eminent elephant researcher. In 2012, Steven Amstrup, of Polar Bears International, received the Indianapolis Prize for his field work and research that led the U.S. to declare polar bears as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Dupré will briefly sketch the history of the gene concept from the heyday of Mendelian genetics in the early 20th century through the landmark discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953 through the Human Genome Project to the contemporary concept of the genome. He will explain how current understanding of genomes has displaced or marginalized traditional and still widely held interpretations of genes as the causes of particular features of organisms, and he will show how increasingly dynamic understandings of the genome are undermining and supplanting still popular ideas of the genome as a blueprint or a program.
Dupré has held posts at Oxford, Stanford, and Birkbeck College, London. His publications include The Disorder of Things (Harvard 1993), Human Nature and the Limits of Science (Oxford 2001), Humans and Other Animals (Oxford 2002), and Processes of Life (Oxford 2012). He is a former President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Almost 50 years ago, Cambridge University Press published the correspondence of Isaac Newton, a seven-volume, 3000-page collection of letters that provide insight into this great, if difficult, genius. In this talk, Dunham shares his favorite examples of Newton as correspondent. From his earliest known letter in 1661 (where he scolded a friend for being drunk), through exchanges with Leibniz, Locke, and others, to documents from his days at the Mint in London, these writings give glimpses of Newton at his best … and his worst.
Dunham has written four books: Journey Through Genius; The Mathematical Universe; Euler: The Master of Us All; and The Calculus Gallery. He is also featured in the Teaching Company’s DVD course “Great Thinkers, Great Theorems.”
Last year, Dunham retired after 22 years as the Koehler Professor of Mathematics at Muhlenberg College. In fall 2008 and again in spring 2013, Dunham was a visiting professor at Harvard University, where he taught a course on the mathematics of Leonhard Euler, and he held a visiting appointment at Princeton University in spring 2014. Currently he is a visitor at the University of Pennsylvania and serves as the Mathematical Association of America’s George Pólya Lecturer.