Saturday, November 16, 2019 9:00 am - 12:55 pm
William Wallace / Washington University in St. Louis
We recently celebrated the 500th anniversary of the unveiling of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling. If any work of art demonstrates artistic genius, it is this well-known masterpiece. No matter how familiar the images, no matter the trials of that crowded space, few visitors have not felt awe standing under this titanic achievement. Like a handful of timeless monuments – the pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China among them – the Sistine never fails to astonish us.
In many ways the ceiling is a compendium: of Michelangelo's art, of the Renaissance, and of Christian theology is a transcendent work of genius that is never exhausted through looking or describing. In the words of German writer, Johann Goethe: "Until you have seen the Sistine Chapel, you can have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing."
William Wallace is the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History at Washington University. He has published “Michelangelo: The Complete Sculpture, Painting, Architecture”, which was awarded the 1999 Umhoefer Prize for Achievement in the Humanities. Professor Wallace has received numerous awards and fellowships, including stays at the Villa I Tatti (Harvard University’s Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence) and the American Academy in Rome. In 1990 Professor Wallace was invited to the Vatican to confer about the conservation of Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel. He also appeared in a BBC film, “The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Michelangelo’s David.”
Rebecca Gallivan / California Institute of Technology
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, we will explore her astonishing life and work and its implications for women in science today.
Rebecca Gallivan is an instructor at Caltech, where she works in nano-technology. Originally from Bainbridge Island, she received her S.B. in Material Science from MIT in 2017. She has spent the past 8 years working in both public and university-level teaching. As well as teaching at Caltech, she runs a research methods course for local high school students, and teaches at the local level at Catlech’s Science Nights Outreach event.
Craig Wright / Yale University
A genius is said to be an extraordinary, intelligent person who breaks new ground with discoveries, inventions, or works of art. Michelangelo was certainly a genius, and so was Marie Curie, as well as Mozart, Beethoven, Edison, Tesla, da Vinci, Picasso, and Einstein.
Yes, we think of geniuses as being hugely smart. But what does it mean to be “smart?” Could “smart” be overrated? What about persistence, self-confidence, and curiosity, and even luck, good and bad? Genius can be said to be the perfect storm of many personal traits, but which ones and in what proportions. The answers may surprise you.
Craig Wright holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard and has taught at Yale for more than forty-five years, where he continues to offer annually “The Genius Course.” Professor Wright has published six books on music and cultural history, and his “The Hidden Habits of Genius” will appear in 2020. Yale has recognized Wright’s contribution to undergraduate teaching in the form of its two most prestigious prizes, the Sewall Prize and the DeVane Medal. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago and in 2011 was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.