The Messenger Lectures are a prestigious series of talks given by leading scholars and public figures at Cornell University. They were founded in 1924 by a gift from Hiram Messenger and are regarded as one of the most important of Cornell's extracurricular activities.
There were initially "twelve lectures per year, delivered by the ablest non-resident lecturer or lecturers obtainable" but are now a series of either three or six lectures given by one nominee each semester.
The purpose of the lectures are "to provide a course of lectures on the evolution of civilization, for the special purpose of raising the moral standards of our political, business and social life". The first series was delivered in 1925 by archeologist James Henry Breasted.
They were initially known (or perhaps have a fuller title) as the Messenger Lectures on the Evolution of Civilization.
Dr. Hiram John Messenger Jr (July 6, 1855 - Dec. 15, 1913; B. Litt., Phd,) was from Hartford, Connecticut and graduated from Cornell in 1880. He was a teacher of mathematics Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of the City of New York and an actuary of the Traveler's Insurance Company. The gift he left to Cornell was part of $4,000 mentioned in his will and a portion of his estate goes to Cornell each year. He was himself the youngest son of Hiram J. Messenger, a mercantile businessman and owner of banks.
- See the list of Messenger Lectures at Cornell University for a complete list
There have been over 80 talks given since 1924, the most famous of which is probably Richard Feynman's 7 lecture series in 1964, The Character of Physical Law, the videos of which were bought and made available to the public by Bill Gates in 2009.
A partial listing of some of the lecturers over the years is provided in Cornell's Messenger Lectures brochure as:
- Leonard Susskind (2014)
- Nima Arkani-Hamed (2010)
- Steven Weinberg (2007)
- Sir Martin Rees (2005)
- Maynard Solomon (1992)
- Susan Moller Okin (1989)
- Peter Nye (1989)
- Edward W. Said (1986)
- Quentin Skinner (1983)
- Noam Chomsky (1976)
- Edward O. Wilson (1976)
- Richard P. Feynman (1964)
- 1960-1961 Fred Hoyle, Astronomy, University of Cambridge
- 1959-1960 Linus Pauling, Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
- 1959-1960 Arthur F. Burns, Economics, Columbia University
- 1958-1959 Vincent Wigglesworth, Zoology, University of Cambridge
- 1957-1958 Guido Pontecorvo, Genetics, University of Glasgow
- 1957-1958 Paul Tillich, Religion, Harvard University
- 1956-1957 W. K. C. Guthrie, Classics, University of Cambridge
- 1956-1957 Alfred L. Kroeber, Anthropology, University of California
- 1955-1956 Edward C. Kirkland, History, Bowdoin College
- 1955-1956 Arthur J. Altmeyer, Louis I. Dublin, Edward J. Stieglitz, Gerontology
- 1954-1955 Philip Kuenen, Submarine Geology, Gronigen, the Netherlands
- 1954-1955 Alpheus T. Mason, Government, Princeton University
- 1953-1954 Luther Gulick, Public Administration, New York
- 1953-1954 C. B. van Niel, Bacteriology, Stanford University
- 1952-1953 Joseph Wood Krutch, Drama, Columbia University
- 1952-1953 Theodore von Karman, Engineering, California Institute of Technology
- 1951-1952 Otto Struve, Astronomy, Yerkes Observatory
- 1951-1952 Robert Redfield, Anthropology, University of Chicago
- 1950-1951 William F. Albright, Archaeology, Johns Hopkins University
- 1950-1951 Thomas A. Bailey, Russian-American Relations, Stanford University
- 1950-1951 Jens Clausen, Botany, Stanford University
- 1949-1950 Otto E. Neugebauer, History of Mathematics, Brown University
- 1949-1950 Vincent du Vigneaud, Biochemistry, Cornell Medical College
- 1948-1949 Otto Kinkeldey, Musicology, Harvard University
- 1948-1949 Harvey Fletcher, Acoustics, Bell Telephone Laboratories
- 1947-1948 Howard Mumford Jones, American Literature, Harvard University
- 1947-1948 Catherine Bauer, Housing, University of Cambridge
- 1947-1948 Marjorie Hope Nicolson, English Literature, Columbia University
- 1946-1947 Sumner Slichter, Economics, Harvard University
- 1945-1946 Hu Shih, History of Chinese Philosophy, Peking
- 1945-1946 J. Robert Oppenheimer, Atomic Physics, California Inst. Of Technology
- 1945-1946 C. C. Little, L. H. Snyder, H. J. Muller, Gene
- 1944-1945 Douglas Bush, English Literature, Harvard University
- 1944-1945 T. R. McConnell, W. H. Cowley, W. DeVane, Higher Education
- 1944-1945 Charles E. Kellogg, Agronomy, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- 1944-1945 Lydia Roberts, Nutrition, University of Chicago
- 1943-1944 Griffith Taylor, Geography, Toronto
- 1942-1943 Carl L. Becker, Cornell History, Cornell University
- 1942-1943 H. Peyre, French Literature, Yale University
- 1941-1942 H. M. Evans, Endocrinology, University of California
- 1941-1942 T. M. River and others, Virus Diseases, Rockefeller Institute
- 1940-1941 F. A. Pottle, Modern Poetry, Yale University
- 1940-1941 H. E. Sigerist, History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University
- 1939-1940 T. D. Kendrick, Archaeology, British Museum
- 1938-1939 G. P. Adams, Philosophy, University of California
- 1938-1939 G. H. McIlwain, History of Political Theory, Harvard University
- 1937-1938 E. J. Dent, Musicology, University of Cambridge
- 1936-1937 Isaiah Bowman, Geography, Johns Hopkins University
- 1936-1937 Robert Hegner, Parasitology, Johns Hopkins University
- 1935-1936 W. M. Calder, History of Christianity, University of Edinburgh
- 1934-1935 W. C. Mitchell, Economics, Columbia University
- 1933-1934 Sir Arthur Eddington, Astronomy, University of Cambridge
- 1932-1933 B. Malinowski, Anthropology, London
- 1931-1932 F. J. Mather, Fine Arts, Princeton University
- 1930-1931 T. H. Morgan, Genetics, California Institute of Technology
- 1929-1930 Roscoe Pound, Law, Harvard University
- 1928-1929 E. L. Thorndike, Psychology, Columbia University
- 1927-1928 T. F. Tout, English History, Manchester
- 1926-1927 H. J. C. Grierson, English Literature, University of Edinburgh
- 1925-1926 R. A. Milliken, Physics, California Institute of Technology
- 1924-1925 J. H. Breasted, Ancient History, Chicago
- Spangenburg, Ray; Diane Moser (2004). Carl Sagan: a biography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 45. ISBN 0-313-32265-1.
Prestigious series of talks known as the Messenger Lectures
- "University and Messenger Lectures". Cornell University. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
- "Science: Bachelor of Science Monday (front cover article)". Time Magazine. 1934-04-16. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- Richards, Janet E.; Mary Van Buren (2000). Order, legitimacy, and wealth in ancient states (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-521-77671-6.
- "The Mathematics Genealogy Project - Hiram Messenger, Jr". Mathematics Genealogy Project. Department of Mathematics, North Dakota State University. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
Ph.D. Cornell University 1886. Dissertation: Modern Methods in Geometric Conics. Advisor: James Edward Oliver
- Sigerist, Henry Ernest (1970). Civilization and disease. Ayer Publishing. pp. xii. ISBN 0-8434-0093-5.
- Lang, Susan S. (2006-04-07). "Britain's Astronomer Royal will deliver Messenger lectures". Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
The Messenger Lectures were established in 1924 by a gift from Hiram Messenger, who graduated from Cornell in 1880, with the intent of raising the moral standards of political, business and social life
- Sullivan, Robert (2003-03-06). "Political economist Fukuyama warns of 'weak states' in Messenger Lecture". Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- Edward, Poole Murray (1916). Distinguished Cornellians: A story historical of Cornell University with biographies of distinguished Cornellians. Ithaca, New York: THE CAYUGA PRESS.
- "LEFT FUND TO CORNELL.; Hiram L. Messenger Provided $4,000 Memorial in His Will". The New York Times. 1913-12-25. p. 8. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
In the will of Hiram J. Messenger, actuary of the Travelers' Insurance Company, filed to-day, Cornell University is remembered,
- "Biographic Section A from Smiths history: CHAPTER XXXIV, HIRAM J. MESSENGER". Retrieved 2009-07-25.