Skip to main content

The Wigner Distinguished Lecture Series

Eugene Wigner
Eugene P. Wigner

ORNL’s Eugene P. Wigner Distinguished Lecture Series in Science, Technology, and Policy promotes dialogue among Oak Ridge researchers and renowned leaders in science, industry, and government. The invited lecturers bring distinct perspectives to the lab’s community of scientists and engineers, whose scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs target some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Albert Fert, recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics, opened the Wigner Lectures on November 4, 2013, 70 years to the day after ORNL’s Graphite Reactor reached criticality. The milestone, achieved as part of the World War II Manhattan Project, helped to usher in the Nuclear Age. Today, to fulfill its missions in clean energy, global security and scientific discovery, ORNL provides some of the world’s foremost facilities and expertise in an array of fields including material science, high-performance computing, biological science, neutron science, and nuclear science and engineering.

The Wigner Lectures are named in recognition of ORNL’s first research director, Eugene Wigner, recipient of the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics. Wigner was both a towering figure in theoretical physics and a key contributor to the development of nuclear reactors. He established an enduring vision for the laboratory and laid the foundations for programs that continue to this day.

Hosted by ORNL's Corporate Fellows, the Distinguished Lectures are available for viewing through the links below or on the laboratory's YouTube site.

Upcoming lecturers
Image removed.
Image removed.
Frank Wilczek – April 1, 2024
Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Image removed.Marcia McNutt – July 1, 2024
President, National Academy of Sciences

Past lecturers
Image removed.

Arthur McDonald – December 4, 2023
Gray Chair, Emeritus, at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada 
2015 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Samuel Ting

Samuel Ting - June 17, 2021
Research Scientist, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1976 Nobel Laureate in Physics

John Martinis

John Martinis - February 18, 2020
Research Scientist, Google; Wooster Chair in Experimental Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Lecture: Quantum supremacy: checking a quantum computer with a classical supercomputer
K. Barry Sharpless

K. Barry Sharpless - May 16, 2019
W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute

Sir Richard Roberts

Sir Richard Roberts – February 6, 2019
Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs

  • Lecture: Precision Agriculture and Genetically Modified Organisms
Michael V. Berry

Michael V. Berry – April 5, 2018
Melville Wills Professor of Physics Emeritus, University of Bristol

Martin Karplus

Martin Karplus – November 7, 2017
Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, Harvard University
2013 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

  • Lecture: What Does the Future Hold?
William D. Phillips

William D. Phillips – August 9, 2017 

Group Leader, Laser Cooling and Trapping, Quantum Measurement Division, Physical Measurement Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland
Co-Director, Physics Frontier Center, Joint Quantum Institute
1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics

  • Lecture: At the Crossroads of Atomic and Solid-State Physics: Ultracold Atoms as a New Condensed Matter System
Thomas L. Friedman

Thomas L. Friedman – May 10, 2017
Foreign Affairs Columnist, The New York Times

Yuri TS. Oganessian

Yuri TS. Oganessian – January 27, 2017
Scientific Director, Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research

Charles O. Holliday, Jr.

Charles O. Holliday, Jr. - October 17, 2016
Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell plc

Brad Filippone

Brad Filippone - September 12, 2016
Francis L. Moseley Professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology

Alton Romig

Alton Romig, Jr. - June 23, 2016
Executive Officer, National Academy of Engineering

Andrew Briggs

Andrew Briggs - March 8, 2016
Professor of Nanomaterials, University of Oxford

Roald Hoffman

Roald Hoffmann - February 9, 2016
Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters Emeritus, Cornell University
1981 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

 Frances Arnold

Frances Arnold - November 2, 2015
Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry
Director, Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center
Principal Investigator, The Frances H. Arnold Research Group, California Institute of Technology

C.N.R. Rao

C. N. R. Rao - September 21, 2015
National Research Professor
Linus Pauling Research Professor
Honorary President, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research

Siegfried Hecker

Siegfried Hecker - April 30, 2015
Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Research Professor of Management Science and Engineering
Center for International  Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

Harold Kroto

Harold Kroto - March 26, 2015
Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry, Florida State University, Tallahassee
Professor Emeritus, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
1996 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

Ada Yonath

Ada Yonath - January 15, 2015
The Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology
Director, The Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly, Weizmann Institute of Science
2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

  • Lecture: Combating Species-Specific Antibiotics Resistance
 Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon – December 10, 2014
Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry & Climate Science
Founding Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative, MIT

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan - July 28, 2014
Structural Studies Division, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

 Craig Barrett

Craig Barrett - April 8, 2014 
Former Chairman of the Board, Intel Corporation

 John Holdren

John Holdren - March 13, 2014 
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Co-Chair, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

 Steven Chu

Steven Chu - February 12, 2014 
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics, Stanford University
Former US Secretary of Energy
1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics

 Arun Majumdar

Arun Majumdar - January 27, 2014
Vice President of Energy, Google
Former Director, U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy

 Albert Fert

Albert Fert - November 4, 2013 
Scientific Director, Unité Mixte de Physique CNRS/Thales
2007 Nobel Laureate in Physics