About the Lecture

Change Through Exchange

Established in 1952, the Beatty Lecture is McGill's most distinguished and endowed lectureship, and one of Canada's longest running lecture series. The Beatty Lecture aims to foster the exchange of ideas by bringing the world’s leading thinkers to McGill to give a public lecture on a subject of their choice and spend one or two days engaging with McGill faculty and students. The Lecture takes place in the fall, on the University’s downtown campus.

From the Nobel to the Pulitzer, from the Kremlin to Wimbledon, from Cambridge to Carnegie Hall, McGill has hosted a diverse range of prestigious voices under the Beatty Lecture banner. In recent years, our speakers have included 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, public health leader Dr. Anthony Fauci, conservation advocate Jane Goodall, authors Roxane Gay and Margaret Atwood, philosopher Charles Taylor, psychiatrist and bioengineer Dr. Karl Deisseroth, pianist Alfred Brendel, and social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus. The topics that lecturers have covered are equally eclectic and provocative, including the environment, human rights, urbanization, evolution, comedy, philosophy, and much more.

Maria Ressa on stage at the 2022 Beatty Lecture
2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa delivers the 2022 Beatty Lecture. Image: Owen Egan & Joni DuFour.

65 Years, 89 Speakers

2019 marked 65 years of the Beatty Lecture, that's a total of 89 incredible lecturers. Now an annual event, prior to 2005 the Beatty featured up to five lecturers each year. The first Beatty Lecture was held on October 4, 1954, featuring Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India's first Vice-President. He was followed in 1955 by economist Barbara Ward and in 1956 by biologist Julian Huxley. Since then, the Beatty has continued to bring to McGill a range of world-renowned speakers, each with their own unique backgrounds and perspectives. Other past lecturers include biologist Francis Crick, political leader Mikhail Gorbachev, sports legend Arthur Ashe, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, and one of the 20th century's greatest musicians, violinist Yehudi Menuhin. In 2019, Jane Goodall became the first repeat lecturer in the Beatty's history, returning to the podium 40 years after her original lecture.

Access audio and video recordings of past Beatty lectures and explore the Beatty's origins by visiting this website's Digital Archive, launched in September 2019.

A Lasting Gift

In 1952, McGill received a $100,000 gift from Dr. Henry A. Beatty in memory of his brother, Sir Edward Beatty. One of Canada's great nation builders and philanthropists, Sir Edward Beatty served as Chancellor and Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors from 1920 to 1943 and as President of the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1918 to 1942. Learn more about Sir Edward's life and legacy here. McGill's Office of the Principal organized the Beatty Lecture during its first decades. Currently the Office of the Vice-President (Research and Innovation) organizes the Lecture while a McGill department or faculty serves as host of any additional events where the Beatty lecturer can interact with students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to the major annual public lecture, the Beatty Lecture endowment from 1989 until 2012 provided funding to McGill departments and academic units to host public Beatty Talks through out the year featuring visiting scholars, scientists, and other individuals of academic interest. ClickPDF icon here to download a list of Beatty Talks.

Back to top