Previous Lee Lectures

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2018: Changes of state and mind.

Professor Dame Carol Robinson FRS FMedSci is a world-leading scientist with an inspiring back story. Having left school at 16, she obtained her first degree, by day release from her job with Pfizer, and then completed a PhD from Cambridge in just two years. Although she then had a career-break for eight years to stay at home with her three young children, Dame Carol went on to became the first ever female Professor of Chemistry in Cambridge in 2001, and then the first female holder of a named Professorship in Chemistry in Oxford.

Elected to the Royal Society in 2004 and as a foreign member of the American National Academy of Sciences in 2017, Dame Carol is President Elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Dame Carol has led the world in the development of mass spectrometry to study proteins and their complexes. Proteins are arguably the most important molecules in the cell – they are the molecules which form complexes that carry out most of the central functions of life. Imagine a new way to study the structure of protein molecules and complexes, without the encumbrance of the surrounding solution or the crystal lattice and free to fly in the gas phase. To do this, protein assemblies would have to survive the change of state, from solution to gas phase. Theoreticians had predicted that proteins would turn inside out during this phase transition such that results would be meaningless. Carol Robinson proved the world wrong. Behind the scenes she was adapting mass spectrometers to explore this phenomenon and to demonstrate the survival of protein assemblies in the gas phase. Some 20 years later, mass spectrometry is capable of maintaining proteins and their assemblies intact and retaining their overall topology. Today, this gas phase structural biology approach is providing a new view of dynamic interactions between proteins, lipid and drugs – important criteria for understanding human health and for enhancing the prospects of drug discovery.

Wolfson College - an institution that celebrates diversity and supports scholars who have different trajectories in their academic careers - was particularly pleased to welcome Professor Dame Carol Robinson as its 2018 Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecturer. In her talk, Dame Carol shared insights into the challenges, discoveries and achievements of her career.

The Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture Series at Wolfson College was endowed by Dr Lee Seng Tee in 2005 on the occasion of the College’s 40th Anniversary. This year the event also coincides with Dr Lee's 95th birthday on 16 April.

2017: State, Faith, Violence: case studies in the coercion of belief
Neil MacGregor OM AO FSA, Inaugural Artistic Director of the Humboldt Forum, Berlin, and formerly Director of the British Museum, gave the tenth lecture in the series on 11 May at 6pm in the Lee Hall.

The 2017 Lee Lecture explored themes which Neil MacGregor also addresses on the BBC Radio 4 series on Faith and Society, Living with the Gods, which is accompanied at an exhibition at the British Museum running until 8 April 2018. The program tells the story of humankind’s search for meaning, and the role and expression of belief in the lives of communities around the world, over the last 40,000 years. Living with the Gods is available on the Radio 4 website.

The Battle of the Quills: Luther and the German Reformation
Lyndal Roper, Regius Pprofessor of History, University of Oxford, gave the ninth lecture in this series on 28 April 2016. This lecture was not recorded.

Red Fortress: Behind the Scenes at the Kremlin
Catherine Merridale, joint winner of the 2013 Wolfson History Prize, gave the eighth lecture in this series on 26 February 2015. The lecture notes are available as a pdf file.

The Flesh is Weak: a History of Pain from the 1760s to the Present
Joanna Bourke, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London,  gave the seventh lecture in this series on Thursday 1 May 2014 at 5.30pm in the Lee Hall.
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The Outbreak of the First World War
Professor Margaret MacMillan, Warden of St Antony's College Oxford, gave the sixth lecture in this series on Thursday 13 June at 5.30pm in the Lee Hall.
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Dickens and Shakespeare
Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, gave the fifth lecture in the series on Thursday 3 May 2012 at 5.30pm in the Lee Hall.
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Watching Prime Ministers
Peter John Hennessy, Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield FBA, an English historian of government and formerly Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London, gave the fourth lecture in the series on Thursday 12 May 2011, at 5.30pm in the Lee Hall.
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You can also download the lecture notes here

Looted art and its restitution: moral and cultural dilemmas for the twenty-first century
The third Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor Richard J Evans on Monday 7 June 2010, at 5.30pm in the Lee Hall. Professor Evans, who became Wolfson's fifth President in October 2010, is Regius Professor of Modern History.
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The changing map of Europe, 1909–2009
The second lecture in this series was given by Professor David Reynolds on Wednesday 27 May 2009 at 5.30pm in the Lee Hall.
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What is the state? The question that “will not go away”
Professor Quentin Skinner, Regius Professor of History at Cambridge, delivered the inaugural Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture in College on 24 October 2007. The Lee Hall was full to overflowing to hear a brilliant and scintillating lecture on ‘What is the state?’
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