Historian of science Naomi Oreskes to present Patten Lectures at IU Bloomington

  • Feb. 23, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Naomi Oreskes will present two Patten Lectures next month at Indiana University Bloomington. The lectures will focus on the social responsibility of understanding climate change as a threat and the skewed political dialogue around climate change.

Oreskes, professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, is a world-renowned historian of science. She is known for her research on the formation of scientific consensus and the impact of dissent on developing scientific concepts.

Her Patten Lectures are free and open to the public. Both will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall. Topics will be:

  • Monday, March 9: “Crying Wolf v. Fiddling While Rome Burns: Historical Perspectives on Scientists' Social Responsibility.”
  • Wednesday, March 11: “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Have Obscured the Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change.”

In “Crying Wolf v. Fiddling While Rome Burns,” Oreskes will explore why environmental and climate change scientists are often more afraid of raising concerns than remaining silent. While exploring the origins and development of reticent scientists, she will argue that understating a threat might be worse than overstating it.

“Merchants of Doubt” will examine the decades-long political campaign, fueled by a few high-level scientists, that has caused nearly half of Americans to question whether human activities are causing climate change.

In addition to these works, Oreskes published a science-fiction novel this year titled, “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future.” The book, set in the year 2393, tells the tragic story of a world afflicted with pervasive environmental issues after the current era’s inaction. Oreskes is currently working on two books: “Science on a Mission: American Oceanography From the Cold War to Climate Change” and “Assessing Assessments: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Scientific Assessments for Environmental Policy in the Late 20th Century.”

Her book “Merchants of Doubt” won the Watson-Davis Prize, which recognizes an excellent textbook or popular book on the history of science, from the History of Science Society in 2011. Oreskes has also received the Francis Bacon Award in the history of science and technology from Caltech in 2009 and became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007.

The William T. Patten Foundation

The William T. Patten Foundation provides funds to bring distinguished scholars or practitioners in the sciences, the humanities and the arts to the Bloomington campus for a week. The foundation has brought over 150 scholars of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937, making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. Lecturers are chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee.

William T. Patten graduated in 1893 with a B.A. degree in history from IU. He then moved to Indianapolis and led a successful career in real estate and politics. He created an endowment for the university in 1931, with the purpose of bringing renowned leaders to the Bloomington campus.

For more information about Oreskes or her lectures, visit the Patten Foundation website or contact

Related Links

Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Indermohan Virk

  • William T. Patten Foundation
  • Office 812-855-5788