VUB hosts exclusive lecture and debate with leading American scientist Jan Golinski

VUB hosts exclusive lecture and debate with leading American scientist Jan Golinski

The role of science and history in our understanding of the climate

On 14 February, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is hosting an evening lecture by the renowned ​ American professor Jan Golinski. It will be followed by a panel discussion, with Prof Golinski engaging in dialogue with philosopher Alicja Gescinska, science historian and philosopher Cornelis J Schilt and the audience. The central theme is the interplay between science, history and understanding of climate change

For his lecture, Professor Golinski has chosen the title “History of science in a changing climate”. In it, he will explore how history offers insights into the way we view climate change today. How does history influence our understanding of climate change? How do cultures, ideas, beliefs and intellectual movements influence how we understand, interpret and respond to climate change? Prof Golinski puts all these questions in an international context and pays particular attention to the legacy of the Enlightenment. This movement gave birth to the worldview that nature is both discoverable and decisive for human life. Prof Golinski focuses on how the Enlightenment influenced our view of climate and what lessons we can draw from the past to better understand the challenges we face today.

After the lecture, Prof Golinski, philosopher Alicja Gescinska and VUB professor Cornelis J Schilt will discuss with each other and the audience the contemporary meaning of Enlightenment values and the role of scientists in the public climate debate. After all, that debate is increasingly heated: what is the truth about climate change and what is “fake news”? Scientists play an important role in the search for an appropriate answer and have an important contribution to objective solutions and debates.

Professor Schilt proposed this lecture and the wider lecture series Knowledge in International Perspective of which this event is a part. Where did our knowledge come from? Who laid the foundations for it? How has our knowledge evolved? In this lecture series, Prof Schilt looks at the origins of everything we know.

Attendance is free; register here.

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Practical information

14 February, 18.00-19.30

VUB Main Campus Etterbeek (U-Residence)
​Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Elsene


  • Introduction by Alicja Gescinska
  • Welcome by Professor Cornelis J Schilt
  • Lecture by Professor Jan Golinski: History of science in a changing climate
  • Panel discussion
  • Networking and drink

Language: English

About Professor Jan Golinski

Professor Jan Golinski is a renowned American science historian, specialising in the period after the Enlightenment. He obtained his doctorate at the University of Leeds followed by a postdoc fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge. He is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of New Hampshire and the author of the following books:

  • Science as Public Culture: Chemistry and Enlightenment in Britain, 1760-1820 (Cambridge University Press, 1992);
  • Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science (University of Chicago Press, 2005);
  • British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2007). 

About Alicja Gescinska

Alicja Gescinska is a Polish-Belgian philosopher and poet and a fixture in public discourse in Flanders and elsewhere. She has written numerous award-winning books and made several TV programmes. Her publications demonstrate a commitment to humanism and, above all, a belief in the value of free thinking and free speech. Alicja is guest curator of the Pauwels Academy of Critical Thinking, part of the VUB public programme.

Broaden your horizons

This event is part of the VUB public programme, a programme for everyone who believes the world can be different, and that scientific insights, critical thinking and dialogue are an important first step in making your mark on your surroundings and the world.

As an urban engaged university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel wants to be a force for change. Through our academic teaching and innovative research, we contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and help to leave our mark on the future.

Sam Jaspers
Sam Jaspers Perscontact wetenschap & onderzoek




About Press - Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

The World Needs You

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.


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