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The Dwight H. Terry Lectureship, also known as the Terry Lectures, was established at Yale University in 1905 by a gift from Dwight H. Terry of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Its purpose is to engage both scholars and the public in a consideration of religion from a humanitarian point of view, in the light of modern science and philosophy. The subject matter has historically been similar to that of the Gifford Lectures in Scotland, and several lecturers have participated in both series.
Establishment of the Lectureship
The 1905 deed of gift establishing the lectureship states:
The object of this foundation is not the promotion of scientific investigation and discovery, but rather the assimilation and interpretation of that which has been or shall be hereafter discovered, and its application to human welfare, especially by the building of the truths of science and philosophy into the structure of a broadened and purified religion. The founder believes that such a religion will greatly stimulate intelligent effort for the improvement of human conditions and the advancement of the race in strength and excellence of character. To this end it is desired that a series of lectures be given by men eminent in their respective departments, on ethics, the history of civilization and religion, biblical research, all sciences and branches of knowledge which have an important bearing on the subject, all the great laws of nature, especially of evolution ... also such interpretations of literature and sociology as are in accord with the spirit of this foundation, to the end that the Christian spirit may be nurtured in the fullest light of the world's knowledge and that mankind may be helped to attain its highest possible welfare and happiness upon this earth.
Although commitment to the gift was made in 1905 it did not mature until 1923, which is when the first Terry lectures were held.
The lectures are free and open to the public. A single installment generally consists of four lectures by the same visiting scholar, given over the course of a month or less. Many of the lectures have been edited into books published by the Yale University Press, and remain in print to this day (see below). From 1999 to 2009 the lectures were recorded and posted on the Terry Lectures website as audio and/or video streams. Starting in 2008, recordings of the lectures have been made available via Yale's YouTube channel and a Terry Lectures playlist.