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William T. Patten Foundation

Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008

Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling kicks off 2008-09 Patten Lecture Series

Sept. 15, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Thomas Schelling, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics and a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Economics and Public Affairs from the University of Maryland, will discuss "Managing Nuclear Proliferation" on Tuesday, Sept. 23, and "Managing the Greenhouse Problem" on Thursday, Sept. 25, kicking off this year's William T. Patten Lecture Series at Indiana University Bloomington.

Thomas Schelling

Thomas Schelling

Print-Quality Photo

In his first lecture, "Managing Nuclear Proliferation," Schelling will discuss ihis views on the management of nuclear proliferation. In his second lecture, "Managing the Greenhouse Problem," he will discuss his belief that the uncertainties of the greenhouse gas issue are great -- as are the certainties. Both lectures will take place in Ballantine Hall, room 109, at 7:30 p.m.

For more than 60 years, since Nagasaki in 1945, no nuclear weapons have been exploded in anger, despite several wars in which one side possessed nuclear weapons, Schelling says. The "taboo" is an asset to be preserved. New nuclear weapon states should recognize that the weapons have proven useful for deterrence; any other "use" will almost certainly bring universal opprobrium. Certain responsibilities will accrue to any new nuclear-weapon states: security against accident, sabotage, or unauthorized use. The United States was slow to recognize the need for such security, as it was slow to recognize the crucial importance of designing weapons safe from attack. Perhaps China, a mature nuclear-weapon state, is in a strong position to provide guidance to any nations contemplating nuclear weapons.

In Schelling's second lecture, "Managing the Greenhouse Problem," he will talk about Venus and Mars, which he says show what too much -- or too little -- greenhouse gas can do to the possibility of life. Carbon dioxide's ability to absorb infra-red radiation can be measured, Schelling says, but the analysis of how much warming, what changes in climate, what impact on agriculture, on health and comfort, how well different countries can adapt, is still in progress; too little is known to predict what concentration will be too much, so no global "rationing" scheme is likely.

He hopes that visitors to his lectures come away with the message that the worst climate impacts will be on the rural poor, and that economic development is a crucial defense. An ambitious program of research, development, and exploration for new economical energy sources and locations for carbon sequestration is urgently needed, Schelling says. The already-developed nations will have to provide financial and technological assistance to the less developed.

Schelling is renowned for his leading edge work in game theory, racial (de)segregation, international politics, nuclear deterrence, and environmental policy. His ideas have influenced the decisions and actions of governments and academies worldwide. For more information on Schelling, see

Patten Lecture Series History

Since 1937, the William T. Patten Foundation has provided generous funds to bring to IU Bloomington people of extraordinary national and international distinction. More than 180 world-renowned scholars have lectured at Indiana University under its auspices. Noted specialists in their fields, speakers have been chosen for their ability to convey the significance of their work to a general audience. Chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee, Patten Lectures have represented more than 50 academic departments and programs. Past lecturers have included Oscar Arias, Jorge Luis Borges, Noam Chomsky, Natalie Zemon Davis, Umberto Eco, Julian S. Huxley, Evelyn Fox Keller, Toni Morrison, Amos Oz, Helmuth Rilling, Edward Said, Amartya Sen, Wole Soyinka, Ren Thom, Lester Thurow, Strobe Talbott and Martha Nussbaum.

William T. Patten received his A.B. degree in 1893 in history from IU. After graduation, he settled in Indianapolis, where he made a career in real estate and politics, including serving as county auditor. He remained appreciative of the educational opportunities that IU had afforded him, and toward the end of his life, in 1931, made a gift to the university in the form of liberty bonds and Indiana municipal and county bonds. The gift was to be held as an endowment bearing his name, and the income used for bringing to the campus eminent leaders in their fields for residence and lectures to enrich the intellectual life of the campus.

Remaining Patten Series lectures:

  • James J. O'Donnell, Professor of Classics and Provost of Georgetown University and former Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing at University of Pennsylvania will speak on Tuesday, Oct. 28, and Thursday, Oct. 30, in Ballantine Hall, room 109, at 7:30 p.m. O'Donnell has contributed broadly to the study of late antique Mediterranean culture, and is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy. He is widely recognized for his pioneering application of networked information technology in higher education, harnessing the Internet to produce some of the first scholarly journals and successful undergraduate courses online.
  • Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M Cabot Professor of English and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University will speak on Tuesday, January 20, and Thursday, January 22, in Ballantine Hall, room 109. One of the foremost Americanists today, a Guggenheim and NEH Fellow, Professor Sollors is also founder of the Longfellow Institute. His work in race studies, multilingualism in American culture, post-war American and Germany, and ethnic modernism continues to shape and revise current debates about race, language and literature.

For a more complete history on William T. Patten and further details on the upcoming lecture series, visit Inquires about the Patten Foundation and the Patten Lecture Series should be sent to