Beatty Memorial Lectures Series

Once called "the man with world's biggest job", Sir Edward Beatty steered both McGill and the Canadian Pacific Railway through the turbulent economic boom and bust years of the 1920s and 1930s. Photograph courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, photographer: Howard Coster.

Douglas Copland, Australian academic and economist, presented the 1961 Beatty Lecture on "The Changing Structure of the Western Economy". Photograph courtesy McGill University Archives.

Dr. Elizabeth Han Suyin, historian, physician and novelist (Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, And The Rain My Drink) presented the 1968 Beatty Lecture. Photograph courtesy McGill University Archives.

McGill's Currie Gymnaisum was filled to capacity for Dr. Elizabeth Han Suyin's 1968 Lecture titled "Asia Today: Two Outlooks". Photograph courtesy McGill University Archives.

A great McGill tradition

Established in 1952, the Beatty Memorial Lecture Series is McGill's annual flagship event and Canada's longest running lecture series. The Beatty Lectures aim to foster the exchange of ideas by bringing the world’s most respected and influential scholars, scientists, and leaders to McGill, from Nobel Laureates to groundbreaking neuroscientists to renowned musicians. Past Beatty Lecturers include Margaret Atwood, Mikhail Gorbachev, Arthur Ashe, Francis Crick and Jane Goodall. Lecturers also spend time meeting in smaller settings with faculty and students. 

On this website, you will find information about all the lectures, video recordings of lectures starting in 2004, and how your McGill department or Faculty can sponsor a lecture.


64 years, 88 speakers: A History of the Beatty Lectures

The Beatty Lectures are named in honour of Sir Edward Beatty, McGill Chancellor from 1920 to 1943 and President of the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1919 to 1942. The first Beatty Lecture was held on October 4, 1954 featuring Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India's first Vice-President and then second President. Sixty-four years later, the Beattys has brought over eighty-eight speakers to the McGill stage.

Now, as part of preparations for McGill’s bicentennial, and for the 65th anniversary of the Beatty Lectures in 2019, Research and Innovation is finding and digitizing recordings, transcripts and photographs of Beatty lectures held in the McGill University Archives and looks forward to sharing this material and much more with the public in the near future. See the slideshow below for a first look, and visit the website's Past Lectures page to view videos of lectures from 2004 to 2017.

Public contributions welcome: R-I is searching for audio cassettes and VHS tape recordings of Beatty Lectures held from 1983 to 2003. Audio cassettes were available for sale to students, faculty and the public during this time. RI is also interested in receiving photographs or personal anecdotes related to the Beatty Lectures. If you have material to share, please email R-I robin.koning [at] mcgill.ca (here).

(Photo credit: Margaret Atwood, 2016 Beatty Memorial Lecturer, photographer: Jean Malek)

What's the change you want to see in the world? If you have an idea for a future lecturer, we want to hear from you.