The Oliver Smithies Lectures

The Oliver Smithies Lectures have been generously funded by Professor Oliver Smithies (1943) as a way of giving generations of undergraduates and postgraduates at Balliol the opportunity to hear and meet outstanding academics from the USA and other countries working in a variety of fields. The following speakers have so far given the Oliver Smithies Lectures.

2000-1 Professor George Hay

Professor Hay visited Balliol in Hilary and Trinity Terms. He is the Edward Cornell Professor of Law and Economics at Cornell Law School and is one of the leading US authorities on competition law. His recent research deals with the tension between the goals of competition law and the goals of patent and copyright law.

2001-2 Professor Richard Wurtman, MD

Professor Wurtman visited Balliol in Trinity Term. He is Professor of Neuroscience at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, and also Director of the Clinical Research Center in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Technology. He works on the effects of drugs, food and diseases on brain neurotransmitters and behaviour. His goal is to discover safe and effective treatments for brain diseases.

2002-3 Professor Richard Rorty

Professor Rorty visited Balliol in Trinity Term. He is Professor of Comparative Literature, and, by courtesy, of Philosophy at Stanford University. He works within both analytic and continental philosophy, and has published widely.

2003-4 Professor Robert Crawford

Professor Crawford visited Balliol in Trinity Term. He is an Old Member of Balliol (1981) and Professor of Modern Scottish Literature, and Head of the School of English, at the University of St Andrew’s, Scotland. His areas of specialisation include post-Enlightenment Scottish literature, contemporary poetry, T S Eliot, modernism, and creative writing. He is a published poet.


Professor Kevin Burrage visited Balliol in Michaelmas Term. He is a Federation Fellow of the Australian Research Council and the Co-Director of the Advanced Computational Modelling Centre at the University of Queensland. He is also the founding CEO of the Queensland Parallel Supercomputing Foundation. He has joint appointments in Mathematics and IT at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland and works on mathematical modelling and complex systems. His lectures were on stochastic modelling and simulation techniques, with particular reference to biological processes.

Dr Timothy Lane visited Balliol in Michaelmas Term. He is Assistant Director, Policy Development and Review Department, International Monetary Fund. His particular area of specialisation in economics is financial markets.

Professor Sir Anthony Leggett FRS visited Balliol in Hilary Term. He is an Old Member of the College (1955) and read Literae Humaniores. In true Balliol style, however, his interests are very wide and he is Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is, in fact, the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Professor, and the Center for Advanced Study Professor of Physics, at the University of Illinois. Widely recognised as a world leader in the theory of low-temperature physics, his pioneering work on superfluidity was recognized by the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics. He has shaped the theoretical understanding of normal and superfluid helium liquids and other strongly coupled superfluids. He has set directions for research in the quantum physics of macroscopic dissipative systems, and use of condensed systems to test the foundations of quantum mechanics. His research interests lie mainly within the fields of theoretical condensed matter physics and the foundations of quantum mechanics. He is an Honorary Fellow of Balliol.  

Professor Joseph Nye visited Balliol in Hilary Term. He is a Rhodes Scholar. He has a world-wide reputation in the field of international relations, and is currently Professor and Dean of the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is a specialist in the area of ‘soft power and leadership’.  

Professor Christopher Ricks FBA visited Balliol in Hilary Term. He is an Old Member of the College (1953) and currently Professor of Humanities at Boston University. He is one of the most eminent literary critics working today, and the author of books on Tennyson, Beckett, Keats, Eliot, Bob Dylan, and others. He is an Honorary Fellow of Balliol and is the Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford.


Professor Willard Bohn is Distinguished Professor of Foreign Languages at Illinois State University. His research focuses on visual poetry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Italian Futurism, and the Dada and Surrealist movements. He gave his lectures in Michaelmas Term, 2005, on Guillaume Apollinaire.

Professor Perry Blackshear is Director of Research at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and is a Consulting Professor of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University. He gave his lectures in Hilary Term 2006.

Professor Tony Fane is Director of the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science & Technology in the School of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. His group has developed a range of non-invasive techniques that are used in the evaluation of membrane performance for applications in water, biotechnology and other areas. He gave his lectures in Trinity Term 2006.


Dr Carl-Johan Seger is Senior Principal Engineer at Intel Corporation, Hillsborough, Oregan. He is in charge of setting the direction of Intel’s formal hardware verification efforts, and technically supervising the design of Intel’s formal design and verification tools. He gave his two lectures in Hilary Term 2007 on the subject of modern micro-processor design and high-volume manufacturing.

Professor Max Pensky is Professor of Philosophy at Binghampton University, New York. His areas of specialisation are Social and Political Philosophy, and modern and contemporary European Philosophy. His lectures in Trinity Term 2007: ‘The challenges of transitional justice: peace or justice’, ‘Transitional justice and the limits of political forgiveness’, and ‘Transitional justice and the politics of memory’.


Professor Steven Levitan is Professor in Computing Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. His field is electrical and computer engineering. He gave two lectures in Michaelmas Term 2007 on the following topics: ‘Design challenges for the next generation of integrated circuits’ and ‘Metaphors for Concurrent Computation’.

Dr Uttara Natarajan is Senior Lecturer in English at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. Her research interests are primarily in Romantic and Victorian literature. She also has a research interest in the area of south Indian culture and caste politics. She gave two lectures in 1st and 3rd week of Trinity Term 2008 titled ‘Hazlitt and Shakespeare’ and ‘Hazlitt’s Common Sense’.

Professor Ben Heineman (1965) is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession. From 1987-2005 he was Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at GE. His Oxford graduate thesis about British race relations, ‘The Politics of the Powerless: A Study of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination’, was published by OUP. He gave two lectures in weeks 5 and 6 of Trinity Term 2008 titled: ‘Can We Win the War Against Global Corruption?’

Professor John Ramsey (1968) is currently the Professor of Classics at the Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He gave his lectures in Hilary 2008, which were titled ‘When did comets become portents of disaster in the Greco-Roman world?’ and ‘Halley’s Comet and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70’.


Professor Ian Storey is a Professor in Ancient History and Classics at Trent University, Ontario. His specialty is ancient Greek drama (especially comedy), Greek comic fiction, and the life and fiction of C.S. Lewis. During his visit in Hilary and Trinity Terms Professor Storey gave two lectures, the first of which focused on his research project “The Play Before the Play: When did an Ancient Greek Play ‘Begin’?” The lectures were given in Hilary Term, in the Ioannou School for Classical and Byzantine Studies.

Professor Juan Manuel López Muñoz is from the University of Cádiz, where he is Professor of Historical Grammar of French (Faculty of Arts). He visited Balliol in Michaelmas Term and Hilary Term and worked on the origins and evolution of the genre commonly known as Lays, focusing on the study of the forms and functions of the circulation of literary discourses in the Middle-Ages. He gave his lectures in Michaelmas Term 2009 on ‘French Lyric Poetry in the Middle Ages’ at the Taylor Institution.


Professor Maria Youni an Associate Professor of Legal History in the Department of Law at Democritus University of Thrace (Greece) presents “Interaction between Roman law and ‘local laws’: an example from Roman Macedonia”


Professor Andrew Lister - Assistant Proffessor at Queens Univeristy, Canada, gave a lecture on ‘Justice and Reciprocity: Disability and Global Justice from a Contractualist Perspective’

Dr Adrian Travis, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, presented the talk: ‘Not waving but talking to my computer’

Smartphones can feel touch in the manner of skin, but how much better if we could see out of a display, as if it were a big flat periscope.  I will explain how we are doing this at Microsoft, why it may bring big changes to the user/computer interface, and why it may let us make displays which televise the experience of looking through a window.

Professor Hans Medick - a member of the research group on “Self Narratives in Transcultural Perspective” at the Free University of Berlin, gave the talk ‘The Thirty Years War as Experience and Memory. Micro-historical Views of a Macro-Historical Event’ in January and ‘The Close Proximity of a Distant War: Contemporary Perceptions of the Thirty Years War in England’ in March.

Professor Bengt Fornberg - Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, presented “Numerical Solution of the Painlevé Equations” in October and “Radial Basis Functions: Developments and Applications to Planetary Scale Flows” in December.