Gifford Lectures

History of the Gifford Lectures

The educator and historian Jacques Barzun described the Gifford Lectures as virtuoso performances and "the highest honor in a philosopher's career." For over a hundred years the Gifford Lecture series has been one of the foremost lecture series dealing with religion, science and philosophy. In his 1885 will the jurist Adam Lord Gifford, convinced that true, felt knowledge of God when acted upon generated human well-being and progress, bequeathed £80,000 to the four Scottish universities (Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and St. Andrews) for the establishment of a series of lectures dealing with the topic of natural religion. In dealing with their particular area of interest and expertise, lecturers are to discuss natural theology as a science, that is, "without reference to or reliance upon any supposed special exceptional or so-called miraculous revelation." The lectures began in 1888 and, with the exception of the years during World War II, 1942-1945, have been delivered continuously since that time. Presenters were to be appointed for a period of two years and could be reappointed for two additional periods of two years each, but for no more than six years in a given city. In this manner the subject was to be examined and promoted by different minds.
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