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Sue and Harry Bovay Lecture in the History and Ethics of Engineering

The Bovay Lecture in the History and Ethics of Engineering occurs (nearly) every year. The lecture series invites distinguished speakers to engage the Cornell community in discussion of social and ethical issues related to engineering. We are grateful for the many esteemed lecturers who have participated in this series.

2024 Lecture: Jon Leydens

May 7, 2024 • 4:30 PM • Kimball Hall B11 • Recording

Contextualizing the Problems of the Engineering Curriculum
Dr. Jon Leydens is Professor of Engineering Education Research at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Leydens’ research interests are in three areas of engineering education: sociotechnical thinking, communication, and social justice. He is co-author of Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (2010), which among other foci accentuated the need for engineers working in community development projects to listen to local community members’ needs and perspectives. His edited collection, Sociotechnical Communication in Engineering (2014), looks at how sociotechnical communication disrupts commonly held myths about engineering communication. His most recent book, Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (2018, Wiley-IEEE Press, with co-author Juan Lucena), fills a gap in our understanding of how engineering and social justice can align in and outside the engineering curriculum.

2019 Lecture: Gideon Lewis-Kraus

May 3, 2019 • 5:00 PM • Phillips Hall 101

Notes from inside Google Brain and the DNA labs of Archaeology: Disrupting the Humanities with Engineering
Gideon Lewis-Kraus is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of No Exit: One Silicon Valley Startup Struggles to Survive a Modern Gold Rush. His essays, reportage, and critiques have been published in Harper’s Magazine, McSweeney’s, The Believer, and The New York Times Magazine.

2018 Lecture: Gretchen Goldman

April 18, 2018 • 4:45 PM • Phillips Hall 101

Scientists, Advocates, and Politicians: The State of Scientific Integrity in the Federal Government
Dr. Gretchen Goldman (Class of ’06) is the research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role, Dr. Goldman leads research efforts on the role of science in public policy, focusing on topics ranging from scientific integrity in government decision-making, to political interference in science-based standards on hydraulic fracturing, climate change, and chemicals. Dr. Goldman came to UCS from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she was a postdoctoral research fellow working on statistical modeling of urban air pollution for use in epidemiologic studies of acute human health effects. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in environmental engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in atmospheric science from Cornell University. Dr. Goldman has appeared on VICE News Tonight, National Public Radio, MarketPlace, WBUR, WAMU, KEXP, and KQED. Her words have appeared in Science, Nature, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Bloomberg and Politico. She currently serves as the chair of the Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and sits on the advisory board of InfluenceMap.

2017 Lecture: Erik Conway

March 29, 2017 • 4:30 PM • Phillips Hall 203

Simulating your way to Mars: A brief history of engineering simulation in Mars exploration
Dr. Erik Conway is an Historian at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

2016 Lecture: Amy Slaton

April 19, 2016 • 4:30 PM • Phillips Hall 101

Race, Gender, and Disability in American Engineering Education: Why STEM Diversity Must and Cannot Work
Dr. Amy Slaton is Professor of History and Politics at Drexel University.

2015 Lecture: Bernard Carlson

March 11, 2015 • 4:30 PM • Phillips Hall 101

The Ethics of Innovation Hype: Reflections on Nikola Tesla’s Career
Dr. W. Bernard Carlson is Professor of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia.

2012 Lecture: Allan McDonald

April 25, 2012 • 4:30 • Phillips Hall 101

Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: A Personal Account
Allan McDonald was an USA engineer, aerospace consultant, author and the director of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project for Morton-Thiokol, a NASA subcontractor. In January 1986, he refused to sign off on a launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger which then broke apart 73 seconds into flight; all seven astronauts on board were killed.

2011 Lecture: Ezra Heitowit

April 12, 2011 • 4:30 PM • Phillips Hall 219

The Professional Scientist and Engineer: Ethics and Advocacy in Science Policy
The general issue of policy advocacy in the scientific and engineering community is a timely one. Questions of whether and how to spend research money in a time of overall budget cutting amid such issues as energy use and climate change that are seen to have high stakes for the near and far future have led to ongoing considerations of the role of both the individual researcher and professional societies in such fora as Physics Today.  While professional advocacy is unavoidable, perhaps quite desirable, there are questions about the respective roles of the individual and that of professional societies.  The talk draws upon my experiences on the Congressional Science Committee and as Vice President of the Universities Research Association.

Dr. Ezra Heitowit (Ph.D. ’71, Applied and Engineering Physics) is a Member of the House Science Committee and Vice President of the Universities Research Association.

2009 Lecture: Robert Metcalfe

April 7, 2009

Enernet: What Energy Can Learn from the History of the Internet
Dr. Robert M. Metcalfe’s career is technological innovation, where he is best known for inventing Ethernet (1973), founding 3Com (1979), and writing eight years of Internet columns in InfoWorld, collected in his book, INTERNET COLLAPSES (2000), still available down the long tail at In 2005, President George W. Bush invited Bob to the White House with his parents to receive the National Medal of Technology, for “leadership in the invention, standardization, and commercialization of Ethernet.”

Dr. Metcalfe is a venture capitalist, since 2001 with Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, MA. He is a director of Polaris-backed technology start-ups including 1366, Ember (chairman and past CEO), GreenFuel (chairman and past CEO), Infinite Power Solutions, Mintera, SiCortex (past chairman), SiOnyx, and an energy storage start-up currently spinning out of MIT. Bob is also advisor/director/trustee to Avistar, National Academy of Engineering, St. Mark’s School, USC Stevens, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT ’68, Life Trustee), and MIT’s Technology Review Magazine, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Energy Initiative, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Dean of Engineering, and Dean of Science.

The talk engaged undergraduate, M.Eng., and graduate students from majors across the college, including the business school, as well faculty members. Dr. Metcalfe’s ‘deliberately provocative’ speaking style challenged and inspired the audience to take on the issue of cheap, clean energy – one of the most pressing engineering and social issues of today (and the future!).