The University Lecture

Since 1950, the University Lecture has offered members of the BU community and the general public an opportunity to hear from distinguished faculty about the outstanding and often groundbreaking research and scholarship in which they are actively engaged.

University Lecturers represent a vast array of disciplines and research topics, yet share a common commitment to excellence in scholarly inquiry and discovery. The annual lecture provides an opportunity to highlight the work of a distinguished scholar and engages both the University community and the broader public in the vibrant intellectual life of Boston University.

To nominate a BU faculty member for this honor, please complete this form. Nominations should be submitted via e-mail to or by mail to the Office of the Provost, One Silber Way, 8th floor.


2016 University Lecture

Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods

Presented by Richard Primack, Professor of Biology

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 7 p.m.
Tsai Performance Center
685 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts
Admission is free. The public is cordially invited.
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Dr. Richard Primack has been a Professor of Biology at Boston University since 1978. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, Doctor of Philosophy from Duke University, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Canterbury and Harvard University. Dr. Primack’s research has focused on plant ecology, conservation biology, and tropical rainforests, in Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, and Central America. He currently investigates the effects of climate change on the plants, birds, and insects of Massachusetts.

Dr. Primack has written over 180 scientific papers and books, over 100 popular articles and editorials, and the recent book, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods. He has authored two widely used textbooks in conservation biology, and developed an innovative model to work with local coauthors to create foreign language editions with local examples; 34 foreign editions have been published with another 8 in production.

Dr. Primack also contributes to Boston University as a faculty member of the Biogeoscience Program, Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, and the Kilachand Honors College. He has served the broader scientific community as President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Biological Conservation.

Dr. Primack has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Conservation Biology, and visiting professorships in Japan, Hong Kong, and the Czech Republic. He is currently a Distinguished Overseas Professor at the Northeast Forestry University in China, and a Humboldt Research Awardee in Germany. His projects and those of his graduate students, particularly those on the effects of climate change on Thoreau’s Concord, have been featured in The New York Times, Boston Globe, American Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, New Scientist, and National Geographic, and on National Public Radio and HBO.

Past Lectures


Sacred Waters: Historical Ecology, Power, and the Soul of the Blue Nile
Presented by James McCann


A Bionic Pancreas for Type 1 Diabetes:  The Long-Awaited Alternative to the Ever-Elusive Cure
Presented by Edward Damiano


The D-Lightful Vitamin D for Health
Presented by Michael Holick


The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle: The Stories Behind Some of the Biggest Liars in History
Presented by Tamar Frankel


The Wonderful Things of Punt: Excavations at a Pharaonic Harbor on the Red Sea
Presented by Kathryn Bard


Not a Note Too Many: Beethoven, McCartney, & Miles 2010
Presented by Jeremy Yudkin


Aeroecology: The Next Frontier
Presented by Thomas H. Kunz


Biology by Design
Presented by James J. Collins


Illusions of Managing History: The Enduring Relevance of Reinhold Niebuhr
Presented by Andrew J. Bacevich


Blood Wedding: The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in History and Memory
Presented by Barbara Diefendorf


American Bioethics after Nuremberg: Pragmatism, Politics, and Human Rights
Presented by George Annas


Macbeth and the Show of Kings
Presented by William C. Carroll


Crossing the Watershed: Biological and Other Worlds in the Post-Genomic Era
Presented by Charles Delisi