Past ConferencesNobel Conference

Here you can find a listing of all Nobel Conference topics and all conference presenters, dating back to the first conference in 1965. You will find links to videorecordings of most of the conferences since 1990. 

Presenters who are Nobel laureates are identified as such: the prize, and the year they won it, are listed after their name.

The college archives contain a wealth of materials about past conferences, including programs, planning documents, publicity materials and written transcripts of lectures not available electronically. You can locate a finding aid to the collection here. 

2023 - Insects: Little Body, Big Impact

Conference presenters address the disproportionate effects insects have on humans and the earth. From the caterpillar that eats our crops before metamorphosing into a stunning moth, to the mosquito that elegantly sips our blood (in exchange for a proboscis full of virus particles or parasites), to the socially-connected bee that pollinates flowering plants, to the humble, but mighty fruit fly that continues to teach us how our bodies function, these tiny creatures fascinate, confound, and inspire us. “Little Body/Big Impact” invites us to learn about, wonder at, and celebrate these little creatures that run the world.

Watch archived presentations

2022 - Mental Health (In)Equity and Young People

Prioritizing the mental health concerns of young people has become essential amid times of global pandemic, racism, sexism, ableism, social unrest, climate change, and political upheaval. These social inequities limit our ability to promote resilience in the mental health of adolescents and young adults, especially those from marginalized communities. Young people often experience little control over their wellbeing, are affected by the decisions of parents, schools and society, and in these technology-driven times are vulnerable to the negative side effects of social media and information overload. In considering how to eradicate inequities and promote mental health, technology becomes central in how it both aids and hinders our modern existence, in the U.S. and around the world.


2021 - Big Data (R)Evolution

How is big data changing our lives, and what challenges and opportunities does this transformation present? In less than a generation, we’ve witnessed nearly every piece of personal, scientific, and societal data come to be stored digitally. Stored information is both an intellectual and an economic commodity; it is used by businesses, governments, academics, and entrepreneurs. The velocity with which it accumulates and the techniques for leveraging it grow at a pace that is remarkable and often intimidating. But this revolution also promises hope, in areas as diverse as public health, drug development, child welfare, and climate change.


2020 (LVI) - Cancer in the Age of Biotechnology

Nobel Conference 56 explored the science of new cancer treatments, the structural and societal factors that will determine who has access to these life-saving treatments, and the therapies and practices that will enable people to live with cancer for the long term.

In recent decades, researchers have made great strides in understanding both the progression of cancer in the human individual and the ways the individual’s immune system responds to it. Their findings have led to the development of cancer therapies that can strategically target cancer cells, with the result that persons undergoing the treatments experience fewer side effects than they would with traditional chemotherapy. The complexity of these biological drugs allows for their specificity and greater effectiveness, but also makes them very expensive to develop, produce and administer. Advances in treatment also increase the number of individuals living with cancer raising questions about how to most effectively support patients in the long-term following diagnosis.


2019 (LV) - Climate Changed: Facing Our Future

The changes being wrought on the earth’s climate system are vast, without precedent, and of such magnitude and scale as to potentially alter life itself. Nobel Conference 55 asked “What tools are available, what research efforts do we require, and what kind of people do we need to be to conceptualize and address global climate challenges?” Nobel Conference 55 brought together seven leading thinkers to address climate change from perspectives including paleoclimate studies, climate justice, climate modeling, and climate adaptation. Attendees were encouraged to grapple with the causes and consequences of climate change and with our responses to the challenges it presents us, as individuals and as a society.

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2018 (LIV) - Living Soil: A Universe Underfoot

Scoop up some soil in your hands and consider there are more organisms in that handful of soil than humans who have ever lived. Soil is a living entity in its own right, a community of micro- and macro-organisms that interact with the earth’s mineral resources to create this complex entity that undergirds all life on the planet. The 54th Nobel Conference, Living Soil: A Universe Underfoot, invited participants to consider the vast diversity and complexity of soil, and to ponder the challenges we face in protecting this most fundamental resource.

What is soil health, and what processes sustain healthy soils? What interactions connect the living entities in the soil, and how do these interactions shape natural systems? How will climate change affect soils, and (how) can soils be used to mitigate rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere? How do we develop sustainable agricultural practices that will protect against soil erosion and promote soil health? How might we best promote exploration of beneficial compounds from soils? How might we re-imagine our relationship to soil culturally and socially, as well as biologically? These are just some of the questions that Nobel Conference 54 addressed.


2017 (LIII) - Reproductive Technology: How Far Do We Go?

From artificial insemination to in vitro fertilization to contraception, reproductive technologies have long raised a host of complex scientific, social, and ethical questions. New techniques and technologies, such as genome editing and mitochondrial transfer, complicate those questions even further. The 53rd Nobel Conference invites participants to consider how continuing innovations in reproductive technology challenge us to think about what it means to be human.

How have scientific and technological discoveries assisted, transformed, and suppressed reproduction, and how will they continue to shape age-old debates about fertility and reproduction, motherhood and fatherhood? How safe are new techniques and what might be their impact on human health and social health? Who decides which technologies to develop, how they are funded, and who should have access to them? This conference will explore the science of these emerging technologies and delve into the ethical complexities and social consequences that result when we reshape a process so central to human life.


2016 (LII) - In Search of Economic Balance

The transition to a world economy has revealed a variety of tradeoffs that polarize economists and policy makers. Optimizing a business for efficiency often results in fewer and lower paying jobs. Regulating businesses for the public good may reduce their ability and incentive to develop innovative solutions to challenging problems. In the end, we are left with questions like:

Why does inequality matter? 
Can we bring the prosperity enjoyed by the world’s advanced economies to the rest of the world?
How do we grow economies in a sustainable way that benefits most, if not all of the population?

2016 Nobel Conference Poster


2015 (LI) - Addiction: Exploring the Science and Experience of an Equal Opportunity Condition

Addiction permeates our society. With the scourge of methamphetamine, increasing use of heroin, and the ubiquity of alcohol, addiction is an “equal opportunity condition.” The substances and behaviors to which people become addicted continue to grow as well, with investigations into the possibilities of addictions to food, the Internet, and sex. But what does it mean to be addicted? Is it a brain condition? A psychological and sociological problem? What are the treatment options available? How do the various understandings of addiction influence public policy decisions?

2015 Poster

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2014 (L) - Celebrating 50 Years of the Nobel Conference: Where Does Science Go from Here?

For nearly 50 years, the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College has hosted preeminent scientists, theologians, and ethicists to discuss deep questions at the intersection of science and society. From the newest results in physics, chemistry, and biology to the newest fields of multidisciplinary study, scientists at the Nobel Conference have examined the universe at its largest and smallest scales, explored the oceans, and described new materials. Conference speakers have debated the mechanisms of aging as well as the science and economics of food. Often, speakers have given us a glimpse of the next big questions and how they might be answered. Throughout all of the conversations, ethicists and theologians have grounded the science in a human dimension.

2014 Poster

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*Freeman Dyson was unable to attend. A link to his talk at another event has been included.


2013 (XLIX) - The Universe at Its Limits

We live at a remarkable moment in the understanding of the most fundamental questions of science. What is the universe made of? Where did it come from? Where is it going? At Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at Its Limits,” to be held on October 1 and 2, 2013, we will explore these questions in the light of recent discoveries and spend time contemplating both their scientific and their philosophical implications.

Western science has roots in ancient Greece, where two seemingly opposite lines of inquiry began over 2,000 years ago. The first was astronomy, the study of what is “outside,” beyond the boundaries of Earth. Over the centuries this discipline has looked outward to our solar system, our home galaxy, and beyond, to examine the large-scale structure of the Universe. The second was the study of “inside” matter, which began with the concept of the atom but has reached the realm of subatomic particles and the fundamental forces in nature.

2013 Poster

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2012 (XLVIII) - Our Global Ocean

The oceans have long been a source of fascination, from the tales of Sinbad to the popular Blue Planet documentary. The marine world provides us with necessities like seafood and medicines, fertilizers and petroleum. But the oceans are also associated with danger, from the devastating hurricanes we face each year to the under-reported facts of the oceans’ roles in climate change. Nobel Conference 48 examines “Our Global Ocean” as a source of inspiration, danger, and knowledge.

Today, we know less about our own oceans than we do about the surfaces of other planets hundreds of millions of miles away. It’s time to take a new look at our oceans by gathering some of the top researchers in biogeochemistry, oceanography, deep-sea biology, molecular genetics, and coral ecology to speak about their research and our roles regarding the ocean. Through the lectures of these leading marine scientists, we hope to ignite thought and conversation about the interconnected bodies of water that play a crucial role in the development of human life and culture.

2012 Poster

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2011 (XLVII) - The Brain and Being Human

In recent years, novel collaborations between neuroscientists and researchers in seemingly disparate fields have forged new ideas and new questions about the working of the brain. Aspects of daily human life are now incorporated into the scientific arena in a new synthesis to understand the human experience and what it means to be human. The braiding of neuroscience with the humanities, arts, social sciences, theology, and engineering has empowered explanations of the motivations and operations of our daily activities. This insight engenders uncertainty in terms of how to best apply this knowledge responsibly and ethically, and perhaps is even challenging the distinctiveness of our own species.

2011 Poster

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2010 (XLVI) - Making Food Good

In asking the question “What makes food good?” ethical, agroecological, physiological, economic, and aesthetic conceptions of “good” intertwine, clash, and vie for attention. Few issues seem to demand consideration so frequently as does the need for “good food.”

2010 Poster

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Additional Participants


2009 (XLV) - H2O Uncertain Resource

Water is essential to all life, yet the supply of water is both vulnerable and finite.

Nobel Conference 45 at Gustavus Adolphus College will examine the current state of world water resources. Immediate threats to the health of rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters, oceans, and all forms of aquatic environments will be confronted by leading scientists. Environmental ethics and potable water as a basic human right will be examined alongside human tragedy resulting from contaminated resources. Water is critical and precious. It is key to the well-being and survival of planet Earth.

2009 Poster Watch Archived Presentations

Additional Participants


2008 Poster

2008 (XLIV) - Who Were the First Humans?

Study of the first humans, where they came from and how they lived, has long been the sphere of knowledge attributed to archaeologists and paleoanthropologists. During the last couple of decades, however, biologists, climatologists, geneticists, mathematicians, and psychologists, among others, have been adding to the scientific database. Using new techniques and state-of-the-art technologies, they have both aided the painstaking work of extracting skeletal remains and artifacts from ancient sites around the world and bolstered the physical findings.

Together, these scientists have produced a host of exciting, far-reaching discoveries. While they are still debating the exact relationships among the species of hominids, the genus from which modern humans arose, they are getting closer and closer to finding the very first of our kind with research that is rewriting our history and informing us in dramatic ways.

Through study of mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes, for example, molecular biologists and geneticists have traced the birth of modern humans to Africa around 200,000 years ago. They created art and musical instruments, buried their dead, learned to make tools, invented languages, and ventured out. From Africa, they headed to Asia, Europe, and across the seas to the Americas.

For tens of thousands of years, our forebears coexisted with Neanderthals, who, it turns out, were "wired" with the same language gene. While the Neanderthals headed for extinction in the forests, however, scientists recently found humans headed for the beach. Our ancient ancestors discovered the "basket" of food along Africa's coastlines and expanded their hunting and gathering skills from woolly mammoths and berries to seals and shellfish at least 167,000 years ago. Learning to harvest marine resources, in fact, just may have enabled them to survive the last ice age, as well as make it to the Americas. Perhaps the most thought provoking "find" is how the research has been consistently showing that for all our physical and genetic differences, we are more alike than anyone imagined—and the implications of that are nothing less than profound.

Watch Archived Presentations

Additional Participants

  • Scott AnfinsonFinding Minnesota: The First People of the North Star State
  • Guy GibbonAfter the PaleoIndians: Archaic and Woodland Peoples in Minnesota
  • Rod JohnsonFlintknapping Demonstration
  • Tom SandersAtlatl Dart Throwing Demonstration


2007 (XLIII) - Heating Up: The Energy Debate

Harnessing and using energy has played a key role in both the development and the decline of civilizations since the dawn of human existence. The rapid technological advances and prosperity enjoyed in the 20th century were driven by the use of fossil fuels—namely, coal and oil. In the 21st century, however, energy demand and prices are soaring, conflicts threaten political stability in the most oil-rich region of the world, and we are realizing the effects of a rapidly warming planet. In the United States, oil production has been declining since the early 1970s, and dependence on foreign oil continues to increase amid the threat of terrorism arising from the oil-rich Middle East. What will be the energy sources of the future? Several new and exciting technologies are on the horizon, including hydrogen, solar and wind power, biofuels, and advanced nuclear power.

2007 Poster

Watch Archived Presentations

Additional Participants

  • Doug CameronAdvances in Biofuels: Ethanol and Beyond
  • J. Drake HamiltonGlobal Warming: Minnesota Impacts, Minnesota Solutions
  • Bishop Craig JohnsonCare for Our World’s Resources: A Biblical Perspective
  • Dan JuhlCommunity-Based Energy: Local Ownership of Renewable Energy


2006 (XLII) - Medicine: Prescription for Tomorrow

2006 Poster

Watch Archived Presentations

Additional Participants

  • Robert BrownResearch in Neurology: Unlocking the Cause and Optimal Treatment of Selected Disorders of the Brain
  • James HartA Collaborative and Alternative Approach to Medicine of the Future
  • William ManahanA Collaborative and Alternative Approach to Medicine of the Future
  • Dean V. MarekHealing and Spirituality
  • Anne L. TaylorPopulation Variability and Cardiovascular Disease

2005 Poster

2005 (XLI) - The Legacy of Einstein

  • George F.R. EllisThe Existence of Life in the Universe and the Crucial Issue of Ethics
  • Wendy FreedmanThe Legacy of Albert Einstein for Cosmology
  • S. James Gates Jr.Is Cosmic Concordance in Concomitance with Superstring/M-Theory?
  • Wolfgang Ketterle (Physics '01) – Bose-Einstein Condensates and Other New Forms of Matter Close to Absolute Zero
  • Thomas LevensonThe Education of Albert Einstein
  • Kip S. ThorneWarped Spacetime: Einstein’s General Relativity Legacy

Additional Participants

  • Ira Flatow – Closing panel moderator
  • John F. HaughtIssues in Science and Religion: Einstein and Religion

2004 (XL) - The Science of Aging

2004 Poster

Additional Participants

  • Richard Q. Elvee – Banquet moderator
  • Joseph GauglerCaregiver and Healthcare Policy Issues
  • Michael HendricksonCaregiver and Healthcare Policy Issues
  • Gabe MalettaClinical Aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease: Assessment and Treatment

2003 (XXXIX) - The Story of Life

2003 Poster

2002 (XXXVIII) - The Nature of Nurture

2002 Poster

It is my privilege to welcome you to the 38th annual Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College. One year ago, the conference celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Nobel prizes. Now we begin this second century of the Nobel tradition with "The Nature of Nurture." Our distinguished panel of speakers will be sharing the latest research that provides new insights into the age-old question of whether nature or nurture is more determinative for child development. The implications from studies in "behavior genetics" for social, political, economic, medical and educational policy around family and child development issues are profound.

This conference will serve well if it conveys to the general audience a broad understanding of the possibilities we now have for human betterment together with the need for using the disciplines of philosophy, religion and ethics to safeguard fundamental human rights and dignity.

2001 (XXXVII) - What is Still to be Discovered?


2001 Poster

Welcome to Nobel Conference® XXXVII, The Second Nobel Century: What Is Still To Be Discovered? This year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prizes by reflecting on the great discoveries, works of art, and accomplishments in the pursuit of peace that, in the words of Alfred Nobel's will, "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

In a century that produced two world wars, the atomic bomb, and tremendous social upheaval, we've also seen the virtual elimination of once-feared contagious diseases, incomprehensible increases in the speed of transportation, the fall of communism, the elimination of apartheid, and forms of communication completely unimagined by previous generations. As my 80-year-old father put it after marveling at the things he could do with his new computer, “I can't imagine any generation that has lived through more changes than I have," He may be right.

  • Günter Blobel (Medicine '99), John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor, The Rockefeller University, New York, and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Edmond H. Fischer (Medicine '92), Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Roald Hoffman (Chemistry '81), Franklin H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
    • Science and Ethics: A Marriage of Necessity and Choice for This Millennium
  • Sir Harold W. Kroto (Chemistry '96), Royal Society Research Professor, University of Sussex, Brighton, England
  • Sir John R. Maddox, Author of What Remains to Be Discovered and Former Editor of Nature, London, England
    • What Remains to Be Discovered
  • Erling C.J. Norrby, Secretary General, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Stanley B. Prusiner (Medicine '97), Professor of Neurology and Biochemistry, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, and Professor of Virology, University of California School of Public Health, Berkeley

2000 (XXXVI) - Globalization 2000: Economic Prospects and Challenges

2000 Poster

The closing decades of the twentieth century brought momentous and surprising changes to the world's economic and political landscape. The sudden but quiet collapse of the Soviet Union spelled the apparent demise of an alternative to market capitalism that seemed to some for a time to promise a superior system, and for even longer at least a workable one. This event coincided with and encouraged a major change in thinking around the world concerning models for economic development. And in the world's developed nations, there has been heightened commitment to and movement toward greater economic integration and free trade.

These events taken together amount to much of what has come to be called "globalization." A world of increasingly interdependent and highly competitive global capitalism seems upon us. Powerful economic institutions, such as The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have been active in policy formulation and assistance in this transition. Governments in the Americas, Europe, and Asia have undertaken very profound initiatives toward economic integration and much freer trade. And the "Asian model" of export-driven development has become the most widely accepted vision of a path to successful development. All of this has not occurred without cost or controversy, as recent events in Seattle and Washington, D.C., attest. Concerns for the environment, for economic equity, for economic and cultural diversity have been voiced, often with force and passion. There is much concern and confusion about just what this new "global" era will mean. Even among those who greet this transition with optimism and enthusiasm, there is debate about important practical questions of implementation strategy.

1999 (XXXV) - Genetics in the New Millennium

1999 Poster

In 1965, with assistance and official authorization from The Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Gustavus Adolphus College organized the first public American conference on "Genetics and the Future of Man." Those attending the first Nobel Conference learned how new concepts and techniques of molecular biology and genetics were providing answers to questions such as, What is a gene? How does a gene act? and How does a gene change or mutate? Participating scientists discussed studies on bacteria, viruses, and fungi that were promising to reveal the "solution of the amino acid code."

In the intervening years, much of what was predicted at that conference has come to pass. Today we are able to isolate and clone genes from any organism. We obtain the nucleotide sequence of the identified gene. We reintroduce the gene into the organism. A number of genome projects, of which the Human Genome Project is the largest in size and scope, provide us with information that constitutes the ultimate reductionist view of a living organism. This information is giving us new perspectives on old questions regarding the structure and function of genes, the control of biological processes such as development, and the relationship of species.

The 35th Nobel Conference, "Genetics in the New Millennium," will examine the emerging areas in genetics and genomics and will attempt to predict anew the long-term effects and applications of these discoveries.

  • Bruce Baker, Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Professor of Developmental Biology, Stanford University Medical School, Palo Alto, California 
  • Elizabeth Blackburn, Professor and Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • Lindon Eaves, Distinguished Professor, Department of Human Genetics, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Co-Director, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics
  • Dean Hamer, Chief, Section on Gene Structure and Regulation Laboratory of Biochemistry National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
  • Leroy Hood, William Gates III Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Director of NSF Science and Technology Center, Chair, Department of Molecular Biotechnology School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Evelyn Fox Keller, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • J. Craig Venter, President and Chief Scientific Officer, Celera Genomics Corporation, Rockville, Maryland, Founder, The Institute for Genomic Research

1998 (XXXIV) - Virus: The Human Connection

1998 Poster

1997 (XXXIII) - Unveiling the Solar System: 30 Years of Exploration

1997 poster


1996 (XXXII) - Apes at the End of an Age: Primate Language and Behavior in the '90s


1996 Poster

For nearly a generation, research into primate studies shed little light on human language and behavior. That may well have been by intent. Until recently, most primate researchers believed that human language was distinct and, as such, was separable from everything nonhuman. That point was well illustrated on the Gustavus campus nearly 30 years ago, when presenters for Nobel Conference® IV, "The Uniqueness of Man," rejected the notion of studying apes in order to learn about humans.

Today, the argument may have turned to support an early theory formed by evolutionist Charles Darwin, who anticipated continuity in mental and behavioral processes among primates. While there are important exceptions, it has become increasingly clear to researchers that animals developed their identities largely through historical cultures, not essential laws of physiology. With that in mind, the study of apes has taken on new importance as a way to better understand the roots of human language and behavior.

This year, Nobel Conference® XXXII, "Apes at the End of an Age: Primate Language and Behavior in the '90s," has assembled six of the world's finest primatologists to discuss these new and exciting developments in their field. We invite you to join us as we learn about primates on the brink of human consciousness, and how research into their language and behavior holds implications for human intellectual development.


1995 (XXXI) - The New Shape of Matter: Materials Challenge Science

1995 Poster

Experimentalists, the diversifiers of the scientific world, have both revealed and created the rich texture of the universe. Theorists, the unifiers of science, have traditionally met this challenge by establishing a framework for understanding this experimental diversity. 

But in the past quarter century, this fundamental balance has changed. Much of today's leading technologies have been created with little or no theoretical guidance. For example, while synthetic chemists have created and improved polymers over several decades, they have done so with only limited theoretical constructs for understanding polymer behavior. The discovery of ceramic superconductors in the mid-1980s challenged physicists to reformulate theories developed for metallic superconductors in the 1950s. And today, advances in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, X-ray spectroscopy and atomic resolution microscopy, coupled

with the wide availability of inexpensive high-speed computing, have enabled organic chemists and biochemists to investigate larger and more complex molecules without a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding how this new technology could be applied.

During Nobel Conference XXXI, "The New Shape of Matter: Materials Challenge Science," an international group of experimental scientists will discuss their work on the cutting edge of scientific creation. The Nobel panel also will include modern-day theorists, who will seek to bring meaning and purpose to these discoveries. We invite you to attend a conference that promises to explore the farthest frontiers of materials science.

  • Philip W. Anderson (Physics '77)Princeton University
    • New Physics of Metals: Fermi Surfaces without Fermi Liquids
  • Susan N. Coppersmith, James Franck Institute, University of Chicago
    • The Complexity of Materials
  • Frederick Ferré, Department of Philosophy, University of Georgia
  • Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (Physics '91)Collège de France, Paris
  • Harry B. Gray, Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology
    • Engineered Enzymes for Photosynthesis
  • Harold W. Kroto (Chemistry '96), School of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences, University of Sussex, England
  • Silvan S. Schweber, Martin Fisher School of Physics, Brandeis University
    • The Metaphysics of Physics: The Landscape at the End of a Heroic Century


1994 (XXX) - Unlocking the Brain: Progress in Neuroscience

1994 Poster

Dramatic advances in our understanding of how the human brain functions have been made in the past decade.Rapid growth in what is known about the biochemistry of brain cells, development of network models of neural processing, and technological advances in our ability to watch the brain at work all promise even further advances. Indeed, the National Science Foundation has declared the 1990s to be the "Decade of the Brain." The 1994 Nobel Conference will offer its audience an opportunity to hear what leading researchers think about how the brain performs its tasks. Emphasis will be placed on how changes in the tools we use to study the brain have heightened our level of understanding.

The 1994 Nobel speakers will address a number of very interesting questions: Are the connections within the brain fixed at birth, or subject to change with experience? How can a visual image of the activity of the brain improve our understanding of motor control, language, and memory? To what extent can we use a computer as a model for understanding how the brain works? What changes in the brain are associated with diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's? Can these changes be reversed?

We hope that this conference will demonstrate the fruits of interdisciplinary research efforts, introduce the broad range of questions which challenge those who are trying to understand how the brain works and most of all, increase our appreciation of the human mind. We invite you to attend a conference which we are confident will be both fascinating and stimulating.


1993 (XXIX) - Nature Out of Balance: The New Ecology


1993 Poster

As the dominant species on the planet Earth, human beings have not been good caretakers of their world. Many environmentally-concerned citizens and political leaders believe that by-products of an industrialized world, including threats to the integrity of nature, diversity of species, or impoverishment of ecosystems, are threatening our environment and, ultimately, the sustainability of all life. Solutions to these problems do not come easily. While the world's environmental problems arise from a combination of political, social and economic factors, long-term solutions must be based on the science of ecology. This science has been working for more than a century to unravel the complexities of the world's natural ecosystems.

In the past 15 years, however, scientists have learned that disturbances–such as fires and hurricanes–play a natural role in ecosystems. Scientists have also found that the traditional solution of reducing an ecological system to its smallest parts will not explain the behavior of the whole. People all over the world are becoming increasingly interested in ecological issues. During this Nobel Conference, our hope is to raise public awareness about the most recent trends and discoveries in the new ecology.


1992 (XXVIII) - Immunity: The Battle Within

Even in the relative peace and calm of a normal day, the human body is constantly under attack. Viruses, bacteria, and other trespassers launch regular assaults against the body's immune system, which raises an intricate web of defense to identify and repel these biological invaders. 

In recent years, researchers have slowly begun to unlock the mysteries surrounding how the body's immune system works. Research in molecular biology, for example, has shown that white T-cells are the linchpins of the body's immune system, they also can become a devastating enemy when they malfunction. Scientists also have learned that bacterial molecules called superantigens can overstimulate production of infection-fighting agents, causing more damage to the host than an invading enemy. 

1992 Poster


1991 (XXVII) - The Evolving Cosmos

1991 Poster

1990 (XXVI) - Chaos: The New Science

 A science of chaos?! How can there be a science of chaos? if something is chaotic, then it is complicated and unpredictable. Its patterns seem random-beyond the scope of normal science which describes orderly predictable processes. Nevertheless, in the past quarter-century scientist from many disciplines have focused their attention on complex and irregular phenomena in their fields and have discovered an underlying simplicity and regularity. They have found that complex, unpredictable phenomena may have elegantly simple, deterministic models, and conversely, that simple, deterministic models may exhibit startlingly complex and unpredictable behavior. 


1990 Poster

1989 (XXV) - The End of Science?

1989 Poster

  • Sheldon Lee Glashow (Physics '79) – The Death of Science!?
  • Ian HackingDisunified Sciences
  • Sandra HardingWhy Physics Is a Bad Model for Physics: Feminist Issues
  • Mary HesseNeed a Constructed Reality Be Non-Objective? Reflections on Science and Society
  • Gerald HoltonHow to Think about the End of Science
  • Gunther S. StentCognitive Limits and the End of Science

1988 (XXIV) - The Restless Earth

1988 Poster

  • Don L. AndersonEarth’s Interior: The Last Frontier
  • W.G. ErnstThe Pacific Rim: Plate Tectonics, Continental Growth, and Geological Hazards and The Future of the Earth Sciences
  • David Ray GriffinThe Restless Universe: A Postmodern View
  • Jack OliverPlate Tectonics: The Discovery, the Lesson, the Opportunity
  • David M. RaupCatastrophes and the History of Life on Earth
  • J. Tuzo WilsonSome Controls That Greatly Affect Surface Responses to Mantle Convection beneath Continents

1987 (XXIII) - Evolution of Sex

1987 Poster

  • William Donald HamiltonSex and Disease
  • Philip J. HefnerSex, for God’s Sake: Theological Perspectives
  • Sarah Blaffer HrdyThe Primate Origins of Female Sexuality and Raising Darwin’s Consciousness: Was There a Male Bias?
  • Lynn MargulisSex in the Microcosm
  • Dorion SaganSex in the Microcosm
  • Peter H. RavenThe Meaning of Flowers: Evolution of Sex in Plants
  • John Maynard SmithTheories of the Evolution of Sex

1986 (XXII) - The Legacy of Keynes

1986 Poster

1985 (XXI) - The Impact of Science on Society

1985 Poster

1984 (XX) - How We Know: The Inner Frontiers of Cognitive Science

1984 Poster

1983 (XIX) - Manipulating Life

1983 Poster

1982 (XVIII) - Darwin's Legacy

1982 Poster

  • Stephen Jay GouldEvolutionary Hopes and Realities
  • Richard E. LeakeyAfrican Origins: A Review of the Record
  • Sir Peter Medawar (Medicine '60) – The Evidences of Evolution
  • Jaroslav PelikanDarwin’s Legacy: Emanation, Evolution, and Development
  • Edward O. WilsonSociobiology: From Darwin to the Present

Additional Presenters

  • Irving StoneThe Human Mind after Darwin

1981 (XVII) - The Place of Mind in Nature

1981 Poster

  • Ragnar Granit (Medicine '67) – Reflections on the Evolution of the Mind and Its Environment
  • Wolfhart PannenbergSpirit and Mind
  • Richard RortyMind as Ineffable
  • John Archibald WheelerBohr, Einstein, and the Strange Lesson of the Quantum
  • Eugene Wigner (Physics '63) – The Limitations of the Validity of Present-Day Physics

Additional Presenters

  • Czesław Miłosz (Literature '80) – Reflections

1980 (XVI) - The Aesthetic Dimension of Science

1980 Logo

  • Freeman J. DysonManchester and Athens
  • Charles HartshorneScience as the Search for the Hidden Beauty of the World
  • William N. Lipscomb Jr. (Chemistry '76) – Some Aesthetic Aspects of Science
  • Gunther SchullerForm and Aesthetics in Twentieth Century Music
  • Chen Ning Yang (Physics '57) – Beauty and Theoretical Physics

Additional Presenters

  • Isaac Bashevis SingerOn Beauty

1979 (XV) - The Future of the Market Economy

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  • Robert BenneOught the Market Economy Have a Future?
  • Richard LipseyAn Economist Looks at the Future of the Price System
  • Kenneth McLennanRedefining Government’s Role in the Market System
  • Baron Stig RamelSweden: How a Mixed Economy Gets Mixed Up
  • Mark WillesRational Expectations and the Future of the Market System

1978 (XIV) - Global Resources: Perspectives and Alternatives

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  • Ian BarbourJustice, Freedom, and Sustainability
  • Barry CommonerA New Historic Passage: The Transition to Renewable Resources
  • Garrett HardinAn Ecolate View of the Human Predicament
  • Tjalling C. Koopmans (Economics '75) – Projecting Economic Aspects of Alternative Futures
  • Letitia ObengBenevolent Yokes in Different Worlds

1977 (XIII) - The Nature of Life

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  • Max Delbrück (Medicine '69) – Mind from Matter?
  • René DubosBiological Memory and the Living Earth
  • Sidney W. FoxThe Origin and Nature of Protolife
  • Bernard M. LoomerThe Web of Life
  • Peter R. MarlerIn the Mind’s Eye: Perception and Innate Knowledge

Additional Presenters

  • Elizabeth Shull Russell – Panelist

1976 (XII) - The Nature of the Physical Universe

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  • Murray Gell-Mann (Physics '69) – What Are the Building Blocks of Matter?
  • Sir Fred HoyleAn Astronomer’s View of the Evolution of Man
  • Stanley L. JakiThe Chaos of Scientific Cosmology
  • Hilary W. PutnamThe Place of Facts in a World of Values
  • Steven Weinberg (Physics '79) – Is Nature Simple?
  • Victor F. WeisskopfWhat Is an Elementary Particle?

1975 (XI) - The Future of Science

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  • Sir John C. Eccles (Medicine '63) – The Brian-Mind Problem as a Frontier of Science
  • Langdon GilkeyThe Future of Science
  • Polykarp Kusch (Physics '55) – A Personal View of Science and the Future
  • Glenn T. Seaborg (Chemistry '51) – New Signposts for Science


  • Ian Barbour, Theologian
  • John Cobb Jr., Theologian
  • William Dean, Theologian
  • Van Austin Harvey, Theologian
  • Hans Schwartz, Theologian
  • Christian Anfinsen (Chemistry '72)
  • George Beadle (Medicine '58)
  • Hans Bethe (Physics '67)
  • Felix Bloch (Physics '52)
  • Walter Brattain (Physics '56)
  • Leon Cooper (Physics '72)
  • André Cournand (Medicine '56)
  • Christian de Duve (Medicine '74)
  • Gerald Edelman (Medicine '72)
  • Ulf S. von Euler (Medicine '70)
  • Robert Hofstadter (Physics '61)
  • Charles Huggins (Medicine '66)
  • Simon Kuznets (Economics '71)
  • Willis Lamb Jr. (Physics '55)
  • Willard Libby (Chemistry '60)
  • Fritz Lipmann (Medicine '53)
  • Robert Mulliken (Chemistry '66)
  • Lars Onsager (Chemistry '68)
  • Julian Schwinger (Physics '65)
  • Emilio Segre (Physics '59)
  • William B. Shockley (Physics '56)
  • Ernest Walton (Physics '51)
  • Thomas Weller (Medicine '54)
  • Chen Ning Yang (Physics '57)

Additional Presenters

  • David Matthews – Closing Address

1974 (X) - The Quest for Peace

  • Rubem AlvesDiagnosis of a Sickness: The Will to War
  • Elisabeth Mann BorgeseThe World Communities as a Peace System
  • Polykarp Kusch (Physics '55) – Is Enduring Peace a Realistic Hope?
  • Robert Jay LiftonSurvival and Transformation—From War to Peace
  • Baron Stig RamelNationalism and International Peace
  • Paul A. Samuelson (Economics '70) – Economics and Peace

1973 (IX) - The Destiny of Women

  • Mary DalyScapegoat Religion and the Sacrifice of Women
  • Martha W. GriffithsLegal and Social Rights and Responsibilities of Women
  • Beatrix HamburgThe Biology of Sex Differences
  • Eleanor MaccobyThe Development of Sex Differences in Intellect and Social Behavior
  • Johnnie TillmonThe Changing Cultural Images of the Black Woman in America

1972 (VIII) - The End of Life

  • Alexander ComfortChanging the Life Span
  • Ulf S. von Euler (Medicine '70) – Physiological Aspects of Aging and Death
  • Nathan A. Scott Jr.The Modern Imagination of Death
  • Krister StendahlImmortality Is Too Much and Too Little
  • George Wald (Medicine '67) – The Origin of Death

Additional Presenters

  • Edgar M. Carlson – Moderator

1971 (VII) - Shaping the Future

Additional Presenters

1970 (VI) - Creativity

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  • William A. ArrowsmithThe Creative University
  • Jacob BronowskiThe Creative Process
  • Willard F. Libby (Chemistry '60) – Creativity in Science
  • Donald W. MacKinnonCreativity: A Multi-faceted Phenomenon
  • Gordon ParksCreativity to Me

1969 (V) - Communication

Additional Presenters

  • Edgar M. Carlson – Moderator

1968 (IV) - The Uniqueness of Man

1967 (III) - The Human Mind

1966 (II) - The Control of the Environment

  • Kenneth E. BouldingThe Prospects of Economic Abundance
  • René DubosAdaptations to the Environment and Man’s Future
  • Roger RevelleThe Conquest of the Oceans
  • Carl T. RowanThe Free Spirit in a Controlled Environment
  • Glenn T. Seaborg (Chemistry '51) – The Control of Energy

Additional Presenters

  • Orville L. Freeman – Convocation Speaker

1965 (I) - Genetics and the Future of Man

Additional Presenters