Herbert Howe Lecture Series

The Herbert Howe Lecture Series brings prominent mathematicians and astronomers to DU to promote current research in mathematics and astronomy. The series is named in honor of Herbert Alonzo Howe, a 19th century professor of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Denver and Denver's first astronomer.

This series is jointly hosted by the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural Sciences.

Announcing the 2023 Herbert Howe Lecture

Howe lecture 23

Past Speakers

  • Lectures in Mathematics

    Join the math department on Zoom on Thursday, November 19th, 2020 for this distinguished lecture at 4:00 p.m. 

    Anne Schilling, PhD

    Professor at the University of California, Davis
    Fellow of the American Mathematical Society

    Public lecture
    November 19th, 2020




    New ideas about Markov chains

    Abstract: We will discuss some new ideas from semigroup theory to analyze the stationary distribution and mixing time of finite Markov chains. An example for a Markov chain is card shuffling and a natural question is: how often do you have to shuffle the deck before it is mixed or random? It turns out that semigroup theory can help answer these questions.


    Dr. Schilling received her PhD from SUNY Stony Brook in 1997. She was the recipient of a Humboldt Research Fellowship and Simons Fellowship. She is currently a professor at the University of California at Davis and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

    Her research interests range from algebraic combinatorics to representation theory to mathematical physics. One focus is the theory of crystal bases and she has recently written a textbook on the topic with Daniel Bump from Stanford University. She has also used combinatorial techniques and semigroup theory to answer questions in probability.


    The video recording of this talk is now available at https://cs.du.edu/~mathfiles/Videos/AnneSchilling.mp4



    2019 Herbert Howe Lecture

    George Andrews, PhD

    Evan Pugh Professor of Mathematics, Pennsylvania State University
    Member of the National Academy of Sciences
    Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    Fellow of the American Mathematical Society

    Public Lecture
    May 30, 4-5pm, Olin 105

    Ramanujan's Lost Notebooks in Five Volumes --- Reflections

    Abstract: Bruce Berndt and I have recently completed the fifth and final volume on Ramanujan's Lost Notebook. All of Ramanujan's assertions (with perhaps one of two exceptions) have been proved or, in very rare instances, refuted or corrected.

    Among these hundreds of formulas there are a number that stand out.  For example, the recent explosion of results on mock theta functions and mock modular forms has it origin in the Lost Notebook.  The "sums-of-tails" phenomenon also arose from the Lost Notebook. This talk will be a personal account of highlights from this project and questions, yet to be answered, that arose from this decades long effort.


    May 30, 5pm, Olin Rotunda

    Prof. George Andrews is a leading expert in the theory of partitions. He wrote over 250 research and popular articles on q-series, special functions, combinatorics and applications. Prof. Andrews is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He also served as the president of the American Mathematical Society.


    2018 Herbert Howe Lecture

    Vitaly Bergelson, PhD

    Distinguished Professor of Math and Physical Sciences at Ohio State University
    Fellow of the American Mathematical Society

    Public lecture 
    May 24, 4-5pm, Olin 105

    The Many Facets of the Poincaré Recurrence Theorem

    Seminar for experts 
    May 25, 2pm

    Uniform distribution, generalized polynomials and the theory of multiple recurrence

    May 24, 5-6pm, Olin Rotunda

    Dr. Bergelson received his PhD from Hebrew University in 1984. He is a Distinguished Professor of Math and Physical Sciences at Ohio State University and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

    His areas of expertise are ergodic theory, combinatorics, ergodic Ramsey theory, polynomial Szemerédi's theorem and number theory. Prof. Bergelson's well-known results include the Bergelson-Leibman theorem and a polynomial generalization of Szemerédi's theorem that provided a positive solution to the Erdős-Turán conjecture.



    2017 Herbert Howe Lecture

    Nitu Kitchloo, PhD

    Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University

    Public lecture 
    May 18, 3-4pm, Olin 105

    Abstraction, Reality and the Study of Mathematics

    Seminar for experts 
    May 19, 2pm

    The Stable Symplectic Category and a Conjecture of Kontsevich

    May 18, 4-5pm, Olin Rotunda

    Dr. Kitchloo received his PhD from MIT in 1998. He is a Professor and current Chairman of the Department of Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, and he received the the Simons Fellowship for 2017-2018.

    His early work was on the topology of certain infinite dimensional groups known as Kac-Moody groups. He has since worked on various topics including Symplectic Topology, Differential Geometry, Stable Homotopy theory and Homotopical aspects of Mathematical Physics.



    2016 Herbert Howe Lecture

    Mathai Varghese, PhD

    Sir Thomas Elder Professor of Mathematics at the University of Adelaide
    Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

    Public lecture 
    May 17, 4-5pm, Olin 105

    Exotic Symmetries in String Theory


    Seminar for experts 
    May 20

    Atiyah-Singer index theory, fractional variant and applications

    May 17, 5-6pm, Olin Rotunda

    Mathai Varghese received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986. He is the Sir Thomas Elder Professor of Mathematics at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

    His research is mainly focused on Geometric Analysis and Mathematical Physics. He is internationally renowned for the Mathai-Quillen formalism in topological field theories, for his work on the Atiyah-Singer index theory and for T-duality in String Theory in a background flux.



    2015 Herbert Howe Lecture

    David Aldous, PhD

    Professor in the Statistics Department at UC Berkeley
    Fellow of the Royal Society
    member of the National Academy of Sciences

    Public lecture 
    May 28, 4-5pm, Olin Hall 105
    Probability, outside the classroom

    Seminar for experts 
    May 29, 10am, Aspen Hall 018

    May 28, 5-6pm, Olin Rotunda 

    David Aldous received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1977. He is a Professor in the Statistics Department at UC Berkeley, Fellow of the Royal Society, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

    His research in mathematical probability has covered weak convergence, exchangeability, Markov chain mixing times, continuum random trees, stochastic coalescence and spatial random networks. A central theme in the works of Dr. Aldous is the study of large finite random structures, obtaining asymptotic behavior as the size tends to infinity via consideration of some suitable infinite random structure.

  • Lectures in Physics


    Harold Levinson 

    Public lecture 
    Oct 11, 4-5pm, Olin 105
    The Formation of Planets from the Direct Accretion of Pebbles & the Lucy Mission to the Trojan Asteroid

    Dr. Harold (Hal) Levison received his PhD from University of Michigan in 1986 and presently is Institute Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. His principal research interests include the dynamics of astronomical objects. He is perhaps best known, however, for his work on the early dynamical evolution of the outer Solar System, and is an author of the most comprehensive model to date. Recently, his LUCY proposal was accepted by NASA for a spacecraft visit to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids.



    Paul Hemenway 

    Public lecture 
    Jan 25, 4-5pm, Olin 105
    Gaia - The Structure and Dynamics of the Milky Way From the Brightest Billion Stars (abstract

    Paul Hemenway started his astronomical career measuring star positions at the US Naval Observatory. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of Virginia in 1974 measuring the positions of radio sources using Very Long Baseline Interferometry. In 1978 he became a founding member of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Astrometry Science Team, and used the HST Fine Guidance Sensors to help determine the coordinate system for the HIPPARCOS Astrometry Satellite. Now retired, he contributes to the Physics and Astronomy Department and the Enrichment Program at DU.



    Robert Stencel 

    Public lecture 
    September 30, 4-5pm, Olin Hall 105 
    The life, times and legacy of DU's Prof. Herbert Alonso Howe (1858-1926)

    Robert Stencel received his Ph.D. from University of Michigan in 1977. He is the William Herschel Womble Professor of Astronomy at the University of Denver, director of the DU Observatories (Chamberlin and Mt. Evans), and Colorado coordinator for the International Dark-sky Association.

    Prior to joining University of Denver in 1993, Dr. Stencel worked at NASA Houston and Greenbelt sites and at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. He teaches astronomy courses and publishes research in astrophysics.


Herbert Howe joined the faculty in 1881 and received his doctorate in May 1884 with a thesis on a novel solution to Kepler's two body problem. He became the first director of the Chamberlin Observatory, a position in which he remained until his death in 1926.

Among his many accomplishments, he is responsible for determining the location of the original Mile High marker at the staircase of the Colorado capitol building in 1909, later replaced with an etched inscription. His measurements were more precise than those of a 1969 survey and only about 3 feet above the modern 2003 plaque.

Herbert Howe and the Chamberlin Observatory