Science historian leads-off anniversary lectures

To help mark UVic’s 50th anniversary, a series of President’s Distinguished Lectures and special convocations featuring three world-renowned authors and thinkers will kick-off in December.

On Dec. 4, author George Dyson highlights the West Coast experiences that have shaped his influential insights on the history and philosophy of science and technology.

On Feb. 18, prize-winning poet and author Anne Michaels discusses aspects of her creative process.

The series concludes on March 27 as eco-feminist and scholar Dr. Vandana Shiva focuses on the social activism that has characterized her work in protecting food security India.

The lectures will be combined with special convocation ceremonies at which the speakers will be conferred honorary degrees.

Dyson is a highly regarded author and leading historian of technology whose latest book, Turing’s Cathedral, has been called “a wonderful, even visionary” account of the early years of computers. It reveals the wide cast of characters—many of whom were brilliant war refugees from Europe—who built the first electronic computing machine to be widely replicated.

At the age of 16, Dyson left home in Princeton, NJ, where his father, the noted physicist Freeman Dyson, was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study. An intellectual free spirit, Dyson came to BC in 1970, became a Canadian citizen, and for a period of time lived in a tree house he had built 30m up a Douglas fir near Belcarra, on Burrard Inlet.

His acclaimed first book, Baidarka: The Kayak, was published in 1986 and brought renewed interest to traditional sea kayaking on the West Coast. His research delved into the historical kayak designs created by the Native Peoples of western North America, how the designs were used, and how they evolved with the arrival of the Russian fur trade.

The book also signaled what would become the primary themes of his writing: the symbiosis and co-evolution of man and machine and the intersection of nature, history and technology.

Dyson’s Darwin Among the Machines—on the history and possible future of artificial intelligence and its implications for humanity—was praised for its combination of scholarship and provocative speculation. Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship details the serious, abandoned and now unthinkable program for interplanetary space travel propelled by nuclear explosions.

Dyson has been a featured presenter at TED (Technology Entertainment Design) and he was the lead speaker at the opening of the Stephen Hawking Centre at the Perimeter Institute in 2011.

Dyson’s special convocation and lecture start at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 in the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium. Tickets, free of charge, are available from the University Centre Box office ( or by phone at 250-721-8480. Everyone is welcome.


In this story

Keywords: President’s Distinguished Lectures, anniversary

Related stories