March 17-University Lecture Series - Carnegie Mellon University

Science of Wisdom

Stephen S. Hall, Thursday, March 17, 2011

4:30 pm, Porter Hall 100 (Gregg Hall)

photo Hall

From the time of Socrates, Confucius, and the Buddha, the notion of human wisdom has inspired deep reflection by philosophers and theologians. Beginning in the mid-20th century, however, psychologists began an empirical investigation of the qualities of wisdom, and in the past decade, neuroscientists have begun to find neural correlates for traits long associated with wise behavior, such as emotional regulation, moral judgment, and compassion. The lecture will describe the story of psychology's exploration of wisdom, and review some of the exciting findings emerging from recent neuroscience that takes the notion of wisdom into the brain.

For nearly three decades, Stephen S. Hall has written about the intersection of science and society in books, magazine articles, and essays. He is the author, most recently, of Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience (2010), which grew out of a 2007 cover article in The New York Times Magazine.

His previous books include Size Matters: How Height Affects the Health, Happiness, and Success of Boys—and the Men They Become (2006), Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension (2003), A Commotion in the Blood: Life, Death, and the Immune System (1997), Mapping the Next Millennium: How Computer-Driven Cartography Is Revolutionizing the Face of Science (1992), and Invisible Frontiers: The Race to Synthesize a Human Gene (1987). Most titles were acknowledged as a “Notable Book of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review.

Hall has received numerous awards, including the “Science in Society Award” in 2004 for book writing from the National Association of Science Writers for Merchants of Immortality, which was also a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the William B. Coley Award in 1998 from the Cancer Research Institute for A Commotion in the Blood. His work has also been widely anthologized, including in Best American Science Writing (2000, 2001, 2008, 2009), A Literary Companion to Science (1990), and The Beholder’s Eye (2005).

Between 1997 and 2000, Hall served as an editor of the New York Times Magazine as well as a Contributing Writer, and has published numerous cover stories for the Magazine. In addition to the New York Times, his journalism has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, New York, Science, The New Yorker, Technology Review, Scientific American, Discover, Smithsonian, and many other national publications. His essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Orion, and the Hastings Center Report.

In addition to writing, Hall teaches science journalism and explanatory journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and also conducts writing workshops for scientists-in-training at New York University’s Carter Institute of Journalism. His many public appearances include a keynote address at the Keystone Symposium, grand rounds at university medical centers, lectures at the Hastings Center, and readings that have been featured on “Book TV.”

Hall graduated as an honors student in English literature from Beloit College in 1973, and lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and two children.