Tanner Lectures

"I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behaviour and human values."

Obert Clark Tanner


The Tanner Lectures were established by the American scholar, industrialist and philanthropist, Obert Clark Tanner in 1978.  The purpose of the Tanner lectures is to advance and reflect upon the scholarly and scientific learning related to human values.
In creating the lectureships, Professor Tanner said, “I hope these lectures will contribute to the intellectual and moral life of mankind. I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behaviour and human values. This understanding may be pursued for its own intrinsic worth, but it may also eventually have practical consequences for the quality of personal and social life".
Appointment as a Tanner Lecturer is a recognition of uncommon achievement and outstanding abilities in the domain of human values. The lectureships are international and intercultural and transcend ethnic, national, religious and ideological distinctions.

The Tanner Lectures 2017

The Clare Hall Tanner Lecture 2017 was given this year by Professor Jan-Werner Müller, Professor of Politics at Princeton University. The lecture was entitled, Designing for Democracy: Architecture, Urban Space, and the Idea of Collective Self-Determination.  

On Thursday 16 November,  Professor Martin Düchs, Mr Fraser Nelson and Professor David Runciman responded, each approaching Professor Werner Müller’s lecture from different perspectives.  


Part 1 Professor Jan-Werner Müller, Professor of Politics at Princeton University  Designing for Democracy: Architecture, Urban Space, and the Idea of Collective Self-Determination.

Part 2 Respondents' session with Mr Fraser Nelson, Prof Martin Düchs and Prof David Runciman.


Picture Gallery


For more photos from the event, please see our online gallery.


Tanner Lecture Archives

Recordings are available for some of our archived talks and can be found in the University's video & audio collection.

2017 A gendered approach to peace building

Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.    

Respondent’s Session with Professor Seyla Benhabib, Professor Willy Brown, Baroness Arminka Helić and Professor Monica McWilliams


Video - Tanner Lecture 2017 video:  Parts One and Two


2016 Aerial Violence and the Everywhere War

Professor Derek Gregory

Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.


Lecture Report


2014 Science, Secrecy and the Private Self

Professor Peter Galison

Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University


2013 The Great Crimes: The Quest for Justice among Individuals and Groups

Philippe Sands QC

Barrister and Professor of Law and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at UCL


2012 The Viennese Interior: Architecture & Inwardness

Professor Joseph Leo Koerner

Harvard University


2011 The Psychology and Economics of Authority

Professor Ernst Fehr

Director of the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich


2010 Care-full Markets: Miracle or Mirage?

Professor Susan J. Smith, FBA, FRSE, AcSS


2009 Art and Religion in the Modern West – Some Perspectives

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling


2008 What's Left of Culture and Society?

Professor Lisa Jardine CBE


2007 Medicine, Neuroscience, Ethics and Society

Professor Judy Illes / Lord Winston


2006 Germany reunited: a lesson in political transformation

Professor Kurt Hans Biedenkopf

President of the State of Saxony from 1990 to 2002


2005 Peace after War: Our Experience

Carl Bildt

Former Prime Minster of Sweden


2004 The meanings of things

Neil Macgregor

Director, British Museum


2003 Beyond the Social Contract: Toward Global Justice

Martha Nussbaum



Seamus Heaney

2001 The State and the Shaping of Identity

Antony Appiah

Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy at the University of Harvard

2000  Tanner Symposium

  • Culture and Calendar

Lawrence Sullivan, Mary Miller, Liba Taub, Silke Ackermann

  • Science and the Measurement of Time

Steven Chu, Michael Hastings, Craig Heller, Malcolm Longair,

Joseph Taylor, Joseph Vining

  • The Performance of Time

William Bolcom, Peter Jeffery, Samuel Barrett

  • The Loss of Time

Toni Morrison


1999 Happiness

Jonathan Lear


1998 The Idol of Stability

Stephen Toulmin

Professor, University of Southern California, (formerly at Oxford University)


1997 Why Animals Don’t Have Language

Dorothy Cheney

Primatologist and Professor, University of Pennsylvania


1996 I. Jazz: A Historical Perspective, II. Duke Ellington, III. Charles Mingus

Gunther Schuller

Jazz historian, performer, arranger and editor


1995 Space-time and Cosmology

Sir Roger Penrose

Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University


1993 Problems of Christianization in Rome and the Post-Roman West

Peter Brown

Professor of History, Princeton University


1992 The Sources of Normativity

Christine Korsgaard

Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University


1991 On Doing Science in the Modern World

Dr David Baltimore

President of Rockefeller University


1990 Environmental Challenges of the ippos: our responsibilities towards future generations

Dr Gro Brundtland

Prime Minister of Norway


1989   Interpretation and Over-interpretation: World, History, Texts

Umberto Eco

Writer and Professor, University of Bologna


1988   Islam in European Thought: The Nineteenth Century and After

Dr Albert Hourani



1987   The Penalty of Imprisonment

Louis Blom-Cooper

QC, London, formerly Chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform


1986   Technology, Bureaucracy and Healing

Dr Roger Bulger

Professor, University of Texas


1985 Architecture: Modernist and Post-modernist

Aldo van Eyck

Architect, Netherlands


1984   The Standard of Living

Amartya Sen

Professor of Political Economy, Oxford University


1983   Challenges of Neo-Darwinism

Steven Jay Gould

Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Professor, Harvard University


1982   Haydn and Eighteenth Century Patronage in Austria and Hungary

H. C. Robbins Landon

Professor of Music, Cardiff University


1981   A Voluntary Society

Dr Kingman Brewster

President of Yale University, and formerly US Ambassador in London


1980   The Arts as a Source of Truth

John A. Passmore

Professor, Australian National University


1979   Arms Control and Peace Research

Raymond Aron

Professor, College de France and Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris


1978   Morality, Politics and the Press

Dr Conor Cruise O'Brien

Editor of the Observer