Miller Lecture to feature 'Rivers of Power' author Laurence C. Smith

Angela M. Rogers
March 30, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Laurence C. Smith, the John Atwater and Diana Nelson University Professor of Environment and Society and professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University, will give the annual E. Willard Miller Endowed Lecture at 11:30 a.m. EDT, April 9 on Zoom.

Smith is the author of the book, “Rivers of Power: How an Ancient Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilizations, and Shapes Our World.” In his lecture, he will explore the relationship between rivers and civilization.

“Rivers, more than any road, technology, or political leader, have shaped the course of human civilization,” Smith said. “They have opened frontiers, founded cities, settled borders, and fed billions. They promote life, forge peace, grant power, and can capriciously destroy everything in their path. Even today, rivers remain a powerful global force — one that is more critical than ever to our future.”

Rivers are of course important in many practical ways (water supply, transportation, sanitation), he said. “But the full breadth of their profound influence on the way we live is less obvious.”

Smith’s research interests include the Arctic, water resources, and satellite remote sensing technologies and he has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, essays and books including in the journals Science, Nature, and PNAS. His scientific research has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and on NPR, CBC Radio, and BBC, among others. In 2012, 2014, 2016, he was an invited speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. His first book, “The World in 2050,” won the Walter P. Kistler Book Award and was a Nature Editor’s Pick of 2012.

The Department of Geography Miller Lecture Series is designed to bring eminent geographers to Penn State and is a gift to the department from the late E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller. E. W. Miller was a professor of geography, department head, and associate dean emeritus in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Last Updated March 31, 2021