The Trotter Prize and Endowed Lecture Series, presented by the College of Science in collaboration with the College of Engineering, seeks to illuminate connections between science and religion, often viewed in academia as non-overlapping if not rival world views.


Two prominent scientists -- one, known as the father of the analysis of algorithms and the creator of the popular TeX computer typesetting system, and the other, a pioneering supergravity theorist known for coining the term "p-brane" to describe one facet of dimensional volume in spacetime -- will visit the Texas A&M University campus later this month to present their views on faith, science and society as part of the university's 16th annual Trotter Endowed Lecture Series.

Donald Knuth, professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford University, and Michael Duff, emeritus professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College London, will deliver a joint public lecture Tuesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in Rudder Theater. No tickets or RSVPs are required for the presentation, which is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception in Rudder's first-floor exhibit hall.

Knuth's talk, "Translating the Bible into Music," will explore his recent composition Fantasia Apocalyptica translating the Greek text of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine into organ music. As part of his presentation, Knuth will play excerpts from the piece, which he contends offers valuable spiritual insights for the 21st century.

Duff's talk, "The Best of All Possible Worlds," will draw from his more than four decades of research on supergravity, string theory and electromagnetic fields governed by the rules of quantum mechanics to explain why he believes the universe seems tailored for creatures like us.

Knuth, a professor of computer science at Stanford since 1968, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Case Institute of Technology in 1960 and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1963. As a graduate student, he accepted a commission to write a book on compilers for computer languages that eventually became the multi-volume The Art of Computer Programming. He joined the mathematics faculty at Caltech in 1963 before becoming a professor at Stanford in 1968.

In addition to making fundamental contributions in several branches of theoretical computer science, Knuth's software systems TeX and METAFONT (MF) are extensively used for book publishing throughout the world. He also created the WEB and CWEB computer programming systems designed to encourage and facilitate literate programming.

Besides his best-known work The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth is the author of five volumes of Computers and Typesetting, nine volumes of collected papers and a non-technical book entitled 3:16 -- Bible Texts Illuminated. That book led to another, Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About, which contains transcripts of six lectures that he presented at MIT in 1999 about the relationship between faith and science.

Knuth is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is also a foreign associate of the French, Norwegian, Bavarian and Russian Science Academies as well as the Royal Society of London. His many awards include the Association for Computing Machinery's Turing Award (1974), the National Medal of Science from President Carter (1979), the American Mathematical Society's Steele Prize (1986), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' Adelsköld Gold Medal (1994), the Technion of Israel's Harvey Prize (1995), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' John von Neumann Medal (1995), the Inamori Foundation's Kyoto Prize (1996), the BBVA Foundation's Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2010) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology's Faraday Medal (2011). He holds honorary doctorates from 15 foreign institutions as well as 19 American colleges and universities.

Duff has served since 2005 as principal of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Abdus Salam Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London. In addition to an emeritus professor, he is Senior Research Investigator at Imperial as well as a visiting professor of mathematics at Oxford University, where he holds a Leverhulme Emeritus Research Fellowship. He previously spent a decade as a professor of physics at Texas A&M from 1988 to 1999, earning appointment as a distinguished professor in 1992.

Duff earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1972 at Imperial College London under Nobel laureate Abdus Salam. After postdoctoral fellowships in Trieste, Oxford, King's College London, Queen Mary College London and Brandeis University, he returned to Imperial in 1979 on a Science Research Council Advanced Fellowship, joining the faculty there in 1980. He took leave of absence to visit the Theory Division in CERN, first in 1982 and again as a staff member from 1984 to 1987, when he became senior physicist.

In 1999, post-Texas A&M, Duff moved to the University of Michigan, where he was Oskar Klein Professor of Physics. He was elected as the inaugural director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics in 2001 and then re-elected in 2004 prior to returning to Imperial in 2005. He also has held visiting professorships and fellowships at the University of Texas at Austin; the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of Kyoto and the University of Cambridge's Isaac Newton Institute.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Arts, Duff's research interests lie in unified theories of the elementary particles, quantum gravity, supergravity, Kaluza-Klein theory, superstrings, supermembranes, M-theory and quantum information theory. He is the editor of The World in Eleven Dimensions: Supergravity, Supermembranes and M-theory, a collection of notable scientific articles on string theory. Duff's work has been recognized with the Institute of Physics' 2017 Paul Dirac Gold Medal and Prize as well as the 2004 Meeting Gold Medal, El Colegio Nacional, Mexico.

The Trotter Prize and Endowed Lecture Series, presented by the College of Science in collaboration with the College of Engineering, seeks to illuminate connections between science and religion, often viewed in academia as non-overlapping if not rival world views. The series was established by Dr. Ide P. Trotter Jr. '54 and Luella H. Trotter with a matching contribution from ExxonMobil Corp. in 2001 to honor Ide P. Trotter Sr., former dean of Texas A&M University's Graduate School, and to recognize pioneering contributions to the understanding of the role of information, complexity and inference in illuminating the mechanisms and wonder of nature.

For more information on the event, contact Jennifer Holle in the College of Science Dean's Office at (979) 845-8817 or jholle@science.tamu.edu.

To learn more about the history of the Trotter Lecture Series and past presenters, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/trotter/.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Donald Knuth

    (Credit: Rajan P. Parrikar / Donald Knuth.

  • Michael Duff

    (Credit: Michael Duff.)

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