Plant Lecture Will Feature Stanford Professor on Creativity

Richard Zare
Richard Zare

Richard Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford University, will deliver the James S. Plant Distinguished Scientist Lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7:30 p.m., in the Chapel. The lecture is titled “Can You Teach Creativity?” and is free and open to the public.

In his lecture, Zare will examine whether creativity can be taught or fostered. Theories of creativity appear to focus on four P’s: Process, Product, Person and Place. There appear to be few common definitions of creativity, but general agreement seems to involve producing something that is both original and worthwhile. Much of the thinking done in formal education emphasizes analysis skills. But another kind of thinking exists, one that focuses on exploring ideas, generating possibilities and looking for wild connections. We seem to have no test for creativity but many tests for knowledge. Zare will consider the proposition that creativity is actually an attitude: a willingness to play, the ability to accept change and failure, a flexibility of outlook, the recognition of good but the desire to find better.

Zare is renowned for his research in the area of laser chemistry, resulting in a greater understanding of chemical reactions at the molecular level. By experimental and theoretical studies he has made seminal contributions to our knowledge of molecular collision processes and contributed very significantly to solving a variety of problems in chemical analysis. His development of laser induced fluorescence as a method for studying reaction dynamics has been widely adopted in other laboratories.

Zare earned his Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard University in 1964.  He joined the staff of Stanford University in 1977, where he became chair of the department of chemistry in 2005.  In 2006 he was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. He has won numerous awards in his career, most recently the Torbern Bergman Medal (2012), and the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award of the People's Republic of China (2012).

The James S. Plant Distinguished Scientist Lecture series was established in 1987 through a bequest from Dr. Plant, class of 1912 and an eminent child psychiatrist, to bring to the campus outstanding scientists as guest lecturers.

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