Houston Lectures

Houston Lectures

William Vermillion Houston (pronounced 'How-stun') was born in Ohio, studied at Ohio State, and worked with Werner Heisenberg as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1927.  After the War he was called to the Rice Institute from the California Institute of Technology in 1946 to become its second president, serving until 1961. Also a professor of physics, he remained active in teaching and research, continuing a distinguished career in spectroscopy and solid-state physics. Houston created an atmosphere conducive to growth and excellence. This lectureship, founded in 1971, is a tribute to him by his many friends and colleagues at Rice and in the physics community who wish to commemorate his insight, wisdom and compassion.

William Houston and desegregation
In 1948 during W. V. Houston’s presidency, a debate raged in the letters page of the campus newspaper, the Thresher, regarding integration of the university, explicitly forbidden by the university’s original charter.  This debate included letters from the executive secretary of the Houston branch of the NAACP, civil rights advocate James Dombrowski of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, and segregationist Gov. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.  After watching several months of back and forth, under pressure from the Board, Houston sent a note to the Thresher pointing out that this debate was “academic” because of the language of the founding charter.  Rice remained segregated until after Houston’s presidency, when a changed Board broke the charter for multiple reasons including external pressures, and Black students were admitted in 1964.  The history of the painfully slow process of integration of Southern private universities is laid out in Private Higher Education in the South:  Duke, Emory, Rice, Tulane, and Vanderbilt, by Melissa Kean, Rice Centennial Historian. The Department of Physics and Astronomy is continuing to work with Rice’s Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice to examine the most appropriate path for this lectureship in this context, while also using associated resources to promote efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Lisa Randall
Harvard University
New Ideas About Dark Matter
February 21, 2020

 Alan H. Guth
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse? 
April 20, 2016

Naomi J. Halas
William Rice University
Optics at the Nanoscale: Shedding Light on Cross-cutting Science and Technologies
January 23, 2014

Paul Grannis
Stony Brook University
The Age of Big Science
October 29, 2012

José Onuchic
University of California at San Diego
Molecular Machines of Life
November 18, 2010

 Zachary Fisk
University of California at Irvine
The New Superconductors
April 19, 2010

Watt W. Webb
Cornell University
Molecular Dynamics Underlying Life Processes
April 16, 2009

George Smoot
Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory
The History And Fate of the Universe or CSI Rice
March 17, 2008

Frank Wilczek
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Universe is a Strange Place
March 26, 2007

Eric Cornell
JILA, NIST, University of Colorado
Stone Cold Science: Bose-Einstein Condensation and the Weird World of Physics a Millionth of a Degree from Absolute Zero
February 21, 2006

Patrick A. Lee
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Unconventional Superconductivity and Magnetism
November 2, 2005

Steven Chu
Stanford University
Holding on to Atoms and Molecules with Lasers:  From Atomic Clocks to Watching Biomolecules Move
April 10, 2004

Michael Turner
University of Chicago
In the Beginning
April 10, 2003

Douglas D. Osheroff
Stanford University
The Key to Discovery
February 11, 2002

William D.  Phillips
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Almost Absolute Zero:  The Story of Laser Cooling and Trapping
February 6, 2001

James W. Cronin
University of Chicago
Eighty-five Years of Cosmic Ray Research:  A Human and Scientific Drama
January 24, 2000

William Happer
Princeton University
Medical Imaging with Laser-Polarized Spins: an Improbable Spinoff of Basic Research
March 16, 1999

Paul C. W. Chu
University of Houston
The Path of Zero Resistance:  From 4K to 164K
March 3, 1998

Anthony J. Leggett
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Superfluids-Order Out of Chaos
January 27, 1997

John J. Hopfield
California Institute of Technology
Neurobiology and Network Computation
April 15, 1996

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
College de France
Manipulating Atoms with Light
April 17, 1995

 Denys Wilkinson
Oxford University
The Universe:  Are We Here by Chance?
March 14, 1994

Mildred S. Dresselhaus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Frontiers of Materials Research
January 13, 1993

Daniel Kleppner
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In Pursuit of Very Cold Hydrogen
January 20, 1992

Victor F. Weisskopf
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Origin of the Universe
January 14, 1991

Charles H. Townes
University of California
What's Happening at the Center of Our Galaxy
April 4, 1990

Val L. Fitch
Princeton University
SDI and the American Physical Society
March 13, 1989

Willis E. Lamb, Jr.
University of Arizona
Some Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
March 7, 1988

 Walter Kohn
University of California, Santa Barbara
The University and the Nuclear Predicament
March 23, 1987

Leon M. Lederman
Fermi National Laboratory & Columbia University
Inner Space / Outer Space
March 18, 1986

Chen-Ning Yang
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Symmetry and Physics
September 28, 1983

Robert R. Wilson
Columbia University
Art, Architecture and Physics at Fermilab
March 17, 1983

Rudolf E. Peierls
Oxford University
Recollections of the Early Days of Quantum Mechanics
March 10, 1981

John A. Wheeler
University of Texas at Austin
Einstein and the Mystery of the Quantum
March 12, 1980

Norman F. Ramsey

Arthur L. Schawlow

William A. Fowler

Freeman Dyson

Edward M. Purcell

Hans A. Bethe

Eugene Wigner

Felix Bloch