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PBK Visiting Scholars

 

RICHARD PRUM, Yale University, The Evolution of Beauty, PBK Visiting Lecture, recorded 26 Feb. 2021 (click here to launch the video)

In this lecture, Yale University ornithologist Richard Prum describes how mating preferences--what Darwin termed "the taste for the beautiful"--create the extraordinary range of ornament in the animal world. In the great halls of science, dogma holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life: which species thrive, which wither away to extinction, and what features each evolves. But can adaptation by natural selection really account for everything we see in nature?

Prum--reviving Darwin's own views--thinks not. Deep in tropical jungles around the world are birds with a dizzying array of appearances and mating displays: Club-winged Manakins who sing with their wings, Great Argus Pheasants who dazzle prospective mates with a four-foot-wide cone of feathers covered in golden 3D spheres, Red-capped Manakins who moonwalk. In thirty years of fieldwork, Prum has seen numerous display traits that seem disconnected from, if not outright contrary to, selection for individual survival. To explain this, he dusts off Darwin's long-neglected theory of sexual selection in which the act of choosing a mate for purely aesthetic reasons--for the mere pleasure of it--is an independent engine of evolutionary change.

"The Evolution of Beauty" presents a unique scientific vision for how nature's splendor contributes to a more complete understanding of evolution and of ourselves.

Richard Prum

PROFESSOR RICHARD PRUM, William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Curator of Ornithology and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Professor Prum is an evolutionary ornithologist with broad interests in avian biology. He has done research on diverse topics, including avian phylogenetics, behavioral evolution, feather evolution and development, sexual selection, sexual conflict, aesthetic evolution, avian color vision, avian structural colors and pigments, avian mimicry, and the theropod dinosaur origin of birds. His book "The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World- and Us" (Doubleday 2017) was named a Top Ten Book of the Year by the New York Times, and was a Finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Non-fiction. From 2012-2017, he served as the Director of the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities at Yale, the initiative aims to foster communication, mutual understanding, collaborative research and teaching among diverse scientific and humanistic disciplines.

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Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program  

Since 1957, the Society's Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students. They meet informally with students and faculty members, participate in classroom discussions and seminars, and give a public lecture open to the entire academic community. The visits are designed primarily for undergraduate participation. 


Recent Visiting Scholars:

Fall 2019

Richard Alley
Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University
"Two-Mile Time Machines: Ice cores and abrupt climate change"

Fall 2018

Dava Newman
Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at MIT, and a Harvard-MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member
"Exploring Space for Earth: Earth's Vital Signs revealed"

Fall 2017

Stephen Walt
Professor of International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government
"U.S. Foreign Policy Today and in the Future"
Wyoming Public Media Interview - "America's Place on the World Stage"

Fall 2015

Hazel Carby
Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies and American Studies and director of the Initiative on Race, Gender, and Globalization, Yale
"Black Futurities: Shape-Shifting Beyond the Limits of the Human"

Spring 2015

Kathleen McGarry
Professor of Economics, UCLA
"50 Years of the War on Poverty: What it Meant for the Elderly"

Spring 2014

Christine M. Thomas, Professor of Religious Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
"Finding Paul in the Landscape of the Ancient City: Urban Space at Ephesos, Real and Imagined"

Fall 2012

Tyler Burge, Professor of Philosophy, UCLA
Perception: Origins of Mind

Fall 2010

Dr. Jack Goldstone
Global Population Trends and How They Shape Our Future

Highlights in the History of the PBK Visiting Scholar Program at the University of Wyoming

1957

Program is Initiated by PBK National Office

1959

Thomas Swain Barclay, Department of Political Science, Stanford University-16 April 1959

1960

Ernest Simmons, Departments of Russian Literature and Slavic Languages, Columbia University-12 April 1960

1961

Peter Odegard, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley-27 March

1962

Lewis Hanke, Department of Latin American Studies, Columbia University-5 April

1963

Marston Bates, Department of Zoology, University of Michigan-8 April

1964

Paul Sears, Department of Plant Science and Director Conservation Program, Yale University-6 April

1965

Mark H Ingraham, Department of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-26 April

1966

Fritz Machlup, Department of Economics, Princeton University-4 April

1967

William Steere, Director, New York Botanical Garden -20  April

1969

Otto Luening, Composer and Conductor, Columbia University-13 March

1971

Henry J. Abraham, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

1972

Gordon A. Craig, Department of History, Stanford University

1974

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Columbia University Law School-2 May

1975

Carl Woodring, George Edward Woodberry Professor of Literature at Columbia University-4 May

1976

John Fischer, Harper's Magazine-5 April

1977

Kingsley Davis and Judith Blake, Department of Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles

1978

Clarence Allen, Department of Geology,  California Institute of Technology

1979

Richard Neustadt, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

1980

Hazel Barnes, Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado

1981

James D. Hart, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley

1982

Edwin S. Gaustad, Department of History, University of California, Riverside-5 April

1983

Nancie L. Gonzalez, Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland-15 March

1984

Arnold Moss, Actor and Founder of Shakespeare Festival Players

1985

Wanda Corn, Department of Art History, Stanford University-25 March

1987

Lewis Coser, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Stony Brook

1989

Robert E. Streeter, Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of English, University of Chicago

1990

Paul J. Steinhardt, Department of Physics, University of Pennsylvania

1991

David Pimental, Department of Insect Ecology & Agricultural Sciences, Cornell University

1993

Martin Marty, Cone Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Modern Christianity, University of Chicago

1994

Leon Henkin, Department of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

1995

Leon Eisenberg, Presley Professor of Social Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

1996

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Department of Performance Studies and Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University

1997

Roger E. Howe, Department of Mathematics, Yale University

1998

Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

1999

Paul Steven Miller, Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

2000

Holmes Rolston III, University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University

2001

Richard Losick, Cabot Professor of Biology, Harvard University

2002

Arlene Saxonhouse, Department of Political Science and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan

2004

James L. Wescoat, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illiinois-UC

2005

Werner Gundersheimer, Director Emeritus, Folger Shakespeare Library

2007

Eric Heller, Department of Physics and Chemistry, Harvard University

2008

Alejandro Garcia-Rivera, Department of Systematic Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

2009

Betty Smocovitis, Departments of History and Zoology, University of Florida

2011

Jack Goldstone, Hazel Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University

2013

Tyler Burge, Department of Philosophy, University of California at Los Angeles

2014

Christine M. Thomas, Department of Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara

2015

Kathleen McGarry, Department of Economics, University of California at Los Angeles

2016

Hazel V. Carby, Department of African American Studies, Yale University

2018

Stephen Walt, Department of International Relations, Harvard University

2019

Dava Newman, Department of Astronomy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2020

Richard Alley, Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University-4 Nov

2021

Richard Prum, William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Curator of Ornithology and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University

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