Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Ed Yong gave Transylvania University’s 2024 William R. Kenan Jr. Lecture on Feb. 15. The talk on “An Immense World” explored the amazing sensory realms of animals that lie outside the scope of our five senses.
Watch the event:
The annual Kenan Lecture is a highlight of each academic year, having drawn such notables as Beverly Sills, Kurt Vonnegut, Salman Rushdie, Elie Wiesel and former U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.
Yong’s talk was based on his 2022 book of the same name, which earned a spot on the New York Times’ 10 Best Books list that year, and it ties into the university’s 2023-24 Creative Intelligence theme of Skeptical Odysseys. Skepticism is something Yong knows about — how in our arrogance, we can assume that we perceive the world as it really is.
A former science reporter for The Atlantic, Yong won the Pulitzer for explanatory reporting in 2021 for his coverage of COVID-19. His pieces “anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government’s failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed,” according to the award announcement.
Additionally, Yong’s “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” was named a Best Book of 2016 by numerous publications, including The Economist and Publisher’s Weekly.
The morning after the Kenan Lecture, Yong joined Transylvania professor Ellen Furlong for an informal follow-up discussion on what Marcel Proust called “the only true voyage … not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.”
Professor Greg Partain, director of Creative Intelligence, noted the importance of skeptical questioning. “To live honestly requires humble questioning of one’s beliefs,” he said. “When a person is unwilling to interrogate cherished assumptions and paradigms, stubborn convictions may limit growth and stifle deeper understanding.”