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A Day of Genius with The Providence Journal

October 05, 2019 9:30 AM – 1:15 PM

schedule

9:30 AM - 10:35 AM
The Scientific Genius of Marie Curie

Susan Lindee / University of Pennsylvania

The brilliant Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie lived a life of profound personal courage. Her experiences illuminate a culture of "pure science" now long gone, and they help us understand some of the continuing issues for women scientists. She and her future husband Pierre worked ceaselessly under what turned out to be very dangerous and unwise conditions: they isolated radium and polonium, launched the entirely new science of radioactivity, and basically founded a scientific empire. Curie defended her doctoral dissertation in the spring of 1903 and a few months later she and her husband were awarded the Nobel Prize. After her husband died, she continued her demanding scientific work, going on to win another Nobel Prize for chemical work with radium. She served heroically at the French front during World War I, when Curie and her teen-aged daughter Irene drove an X-ray truck she had outfitted herself, to help doctors assess the brutal wounds of the First World War.

When Curie died in 1934 of a form of anemia brought on by exposure to radiation, she was one of the most famous women in the world. Austere, reserved, and powerful, she became a symbol of female genius, the only female scientist commonly included in children's books and other popular sources. In this lecture, U Penn Professor Susan Lindee will explore her astonishing life and work and its implications for women in science today.

Susan Lindee / University of Pennsylvania
Susan Lindee is a Janice and Julian Bers Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the Associate Dean for the School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Lindee has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund 40th Anniversary Award, as well as support from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

10:50 AM - 11:55 AM
The Restless Genius of Benjamin Franklin

Richard Bell / University of Maryland

Franklin's genius is a puzzle. Born the tenth and youngest son of a decidedly humble family of puritan candle-makers in Boston in 1706, Franklin's rise to the front ranks of science, engineering, and invention was as unexpected as it was meteoric. Here is a man with only two years of proper schooling who later received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and St. Andrews as well as the eighteenth-century equivalent of a Nobel Prize for Physics.

Like his hero Isaac Newton, Franklin's great genius lay in optimizing, in tinkering, in improving, and in never being satisfied with the world as he knew it. In this talk we will examine many of Franklin's ideas to make life simpler, cheaper, and easier for himself and everyone else. It turns out that those ideas encompassed not only natural science and engineering—the kite experiments and the bifocals for which he is justly remembered—but also all sorts of public works, civic improvements, political trail-blazing, and fresh, new business ideas. His experimenter's instinct, his relentless drive to build a better world one small piece at a time, even encompassed innovations in medical device design, in music, in cookery, and in ventriloquism. Hardly the tortured genius, Franklin took a schoolboy's pleasure in everything he made. Experimenting was a constant source of beauty, pleasure, and amusement for him, even when things went wrong (which they did all the time).

Richard Bell / University of Maryland
Richard Bell is a Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He has served as the Mellon Fellow in American History at Cambridge University, the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society, a Mayer Fellow at the Huntington Library, as a Research Fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition and Resistance at Yale University, and a Resident Fellow at the John W. Kluge at the Library of Congress. He is also a frequent lecturer and debater on the C-SPAN television network. Professor Bell is the recipient of more than a dozen teaching awards, including the 2017 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching.

12:10 PM - 1:15 PM
The Literary Genius of Shakespeare

Seth Lerer / University of California at San Diego

More than four centuries after his death, Shakespeare continues to allure, to challenge, and to teach. Each year, new books and new productions testify to the endurance of his plays and poetry. What makes William Shakespeare, in the words of his contemporary Ben Jonson, "not for an age, but for all time"? We will explore the range of Shakespeare's work to see how he awes and teaches us today. This lecture focuses on three important questions, both for his time and ours: What is the place of art in the exercise of political rule? How do our families make and unmake us? Is there a character inside of us, or are we all performers on life's stage? All of Shakespeare's works address these questions in some way.

This lecture will focus on a couple of the great tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear), a great comedy (Midsummer Night's Dream), and a range of Sonnets. It will explore the ways in which we may see his work newly on the stage, but also how we can read it privately – and how both media of acting and printing shaped his work from its very beginning.

Seth Lerer / University of California at San Diego
Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language, most recently on Children's Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. His book, "Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past," appeared in 2016, and his most recent book is "Shakespeare's Lyric Stage," will be published in the fall of 2018.

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