Messenger Lectures

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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.[1][2]

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.[2]

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.[3]

They were initially known (or perhaps have a fuller title) as the Messenger Lectures on the Evolution of Civilization.[4]

Hiram Messenger[edit]

Dr. Hiram John Messenger Jr (July 6, 1855 - Dec. 15, 1913; B. Litt., Phd,[5]) was from Hartford, Connecticut[6] and graduated from Cornell in 1880.[7] He was a teacher of mathematics[8] Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of the City of New York[9] and an actuary of the Traveler's Insurance Company. The gift he left to Cornell was part of $4,000 mentioned in his will[10] and a portion of his estate goes to Cornell each year.[6] He was himself the youngest son of Hiram J. Messenger, a mercantile businessman and owner of banks.[11]

The lectures[edit]

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:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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 
  2. ^ a b "University and Messenger Lectures". Cornell University. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  3. ^ "Science: Bachelor of Science Monday (front cover article)". Time Magazine. 1934-04-16. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "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 
  6. ^ a b Sigerist, Henry Ernest (1970). Civilization and disease. Ayer Publishing. pp. xii. ISBN 0-8434-0093-5. 
  7. ^ 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 
  8. ^ Sullivan, Robert (2003-03-06). "Political economist Fukuyama warns of 'weak states' in Messenger Lecture". Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  9. ^ Edward, Poole Murray (1916). Distinguished Cornellians: A story historical of Cornell University with biographies of distinguished Cornellians. Ithaca, New York: THE CAYUGA PRESS. 
  10. ^ "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, 
  11. ^ "Biographic Section A from Smiths history: CHAPTER XXXIV, HIRAM J. MESSENGER". Retrieved 2009-07-25. 

External links[edit]