The origin of the lectures dates back to Richard Courant’s 70th birthday on January 8, 1958, when his friends established a fund to endow a series of Courant Lectures to be delivered every two years. Kurt Friedrichs, who was chosen to present the gift, stated:

“One may think that one of the roles mathematics plays in other sciences is that of providing law and order, rational organization and logical consistency, but that would not correspond to Courant's ideas. In fact, within mathematics proper Courant has always fought against overemphasis of the rational, logical, legalistic aspects of this science and emphasized the inventive and constructive, esthetic and even playful on the one hand and on the other hand those pertaining to reality. How mathematics can retain these qualities when it invades other sciences is an interesting and somewhat puzzling question. Here we hope our gift will help.”

In 2006, this venerable lecture series was re-invigorated through extremely generous endowment gifts from Dan Stroock, in memory of Alan M. Stroock, who was a long time supporter of NYU both financially and through his many years of service on the board of trustees, and by the Gopal Varadhan Foundation, established in memory of Mr. Varadhan, an alumnus of New York University, WSUC class of 1990, who lost his life in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The first speaker, in 1959, was Eugene Wigner, one of the greatest mathematical physicists of the 20th century. His talk, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” became quite famous and was subsequently published in Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics.


Video recordings of some Courant Lectures are available here.



The XXXIInd Courant Lectures
April 6-April 7, 2017

Professor Avi Wigderson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Lecture I: "Operator scaling - theory and applications"
Lecture II: "Symbolic matrices"


The XXXIst Courant Lectures
March 31-April 1, 2016

Professor Horng-Tzer Yau, Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University

Lecture I: "Random Matrix Statistics — A new class of statistical laws for highly correlated systems"
Lecture II: "Beyond Mean Field Theory and d-regular graphs"



The XXXth Courant Lectures
April 27-April 28, 2015

Professor Shafi Goldwasser, ACM Turing Award Laureate, RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at MIT, and Professor of Computer Science & Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute

Lecture I: "The Cryptographic Lens"
Lecture II: "On Time and Order in Cryptography"


The XXIXth Courant Lectures
April 24-April 25, 2014

Simon Donaldson, Imperial College London

Lecture I: "Kahler metrics and projective embedding I: approximation and asymptotics"
Lecture II: "Kahler metrics and projective embedding II: Gromov-Hausdorff limits"


The XXVIIIth Courant Lectures
April 25-April 26, 2013

Bernhard Schölkopf, Max Planck

Lecture I: "Statistical and Causal Learning"
Lecture II: "Inference of Cause and Effect"


The XXVIIth Courant Lectures
March 30 & April 2, 2012

Daniel Spielman, Yale

Lecture I: "Algorithms, Graph Theory, and Laplacian Linear Equations"
Lecture II: "Sparsification of Graphs and Approximation of Matrices"


The XXVIth Courant Lectures
April 7-8, 2011

Persi Diaconis, Stanford

Lecture I: "The Search for Randomness"
Lecture II: "Mathematical Analysis of 'Hit and Run' Algorithms"


The XXVth Courant Lectures
April 29-30, 2010

Alfio Quarteroni, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland and Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Lecture I: "Complexity reduction in the numerical approximation of Partial Differential Equations"
Lecture II: "Mathematical models for the cardiovascular system: analysis, numerical simulation, applications"



The XXIVth Courant Lectures
March 23-24, 2009

Emmanuel Candes, Caltech

Lecture I: "The Amazing Power of Convex Relaxation: the Surprising Story of Compressive Sensing"
Lecture II: "The Amazing Power of Convex Relaxation: the Surprising Story of Matrix Completion"



The XXIIIrd Courant Lectures
March 12-13, 2008

Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University

Lecture I: "The Geography of Social and Information Networks"
Lecture II: "Modeling Social and Economic Exchange in Networks"


The XXIInd Courant Lectures
March 23 & 26, 2007

Jean-Michel Bismut, Université Paris-Sud XI

Lecture I: "Traces, Determinants, and Probability Theory"
Lecture II: "Quillen metrics, the hypoelliptic Laplacian: the role and the functional integral"


The XXIst Courant Lectures
November 20, 2003

Lecture I:
Barbara Keyfitz, University of Houston
"What Studying Quasi-Steady Problems Can Tell Us About Steady Transonic Flow"

Lecture II:
Sergiu Klainerman, Princeton University
"On the Mathematics of General Relativity and Nonlinear Wave Equations"


The XXth Courant Lectures
April 2-3, 2003

Pierre-Louis Lions, College de France

Lecture I: "Atomic Physics to Nonlinear Elasticity: A Mathematical Attempt"
Lecture II: "On Stochastic Partial Differential Equations"


The XIXth Courant Lectures
March 26-27, 2002

Lawrence C. Evans, University of California, Berkeley

Lecture I: "Some PDE methods for weak KAM theory: Introduction and Heuristics"
Lecture II: "Some PDE methods for weak KAM theory: Estimates and Applications"


The XVIIIth Courant Lectures
April 10-11, 2000

Ivar Ekeland, Université Paris-Dauphiine

Lecture I: "Nonlinear Problems Arising from Economic Theory: The Inverse Problem for Demand Functions"
Lecture II: "Nonlinear Problems Arising from Economic Theory: Variational Problems with Convexity Constraints"


The XVIIth Courant Lectures
April 22-23, 1999

Lecture I:
Herbert B. Keller, California Institute of Technology
"A New Theory for Differential Algebraic Equations"

Lecture II:
Joseph B. Keller, Stanford University
"Option Pricing"


The XVIth Courant Lectures
April 22-23, 1998

Paul Garabedian, New York University

"Supercritical Wing Sections and Computational Plasma Physics”


The XVth Courant Lectures
April 14-15, 1997

Gordon Bell, Bay Area Research Center, Microsoft

Lecture I: "Telework"
Lecture II: "New Computer Classes: The Platforms, Interfaces, and Networks"


The XIVth Courant Lectures

Fang Hua Lin, New York University

Lecture I: "Energy Concentrations for the Ginzburg-Landau Equations"
Lecture II: "Minimal Submanifolds Vortices and Filaments Dynamics"


The XIIIth Courant Lectures
March 7-8, 1996

Professor Gang Tian, New York University

Lecture I: "Nonlinear Equations in Complex Differential Geometry"
Lecture II: "Complex Monge-Ampere Equations and Moser-Onofri Type Inequalities"


The XIIth Courant Lectures
October 7, 1988

Professor Roger Penrose, Oxford University

"Complex Geometry in Physics"


The XIth Courant Lectures
October 7, 1988

Professor Richard Karp, University of California, Berkeley

"The Polynomial-time Frontier: Recent Development in Computational Complexity"


The Xth Courant Lectures
October 6, 1988

Professor Clifford Taubes, Harvard University

"Stable Morse Theory for an Algebraic Variety’s Map into a Grassmanian"


The VIIIth & IXth Courant Lectures
May 4-9, 1987

Robert E. Tarjan, Princeton University, AT&T Bell Laboratories
"New Themes in Data Structure Design"

Dennis P. Sullivan, Einstein Professor of Mathematics, Graduate Center of C.U.N.U and I.H.E.S., France
"Analysis on Quasi-Conformal Manifolds and Yang-Mills Fields"


The VIIth Courant Lectures
April 29, 1982

Michael O. Rabin, Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Harvard University

"Randomization in Computation"


The VIth Courant Lectures
April 28, 1982

William P. Thurston, Princeton University

"On the Geometry of Three-Manifolds"


The Vth Courant Lectures
May 12, 1975

Chen Ning Yang, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1957

"Gauge Theory: An Example of Fiber Bundle Theory in Physics"


The IVth Courant Lectures

Carl Ludwig Siegel, University of Goettingen


The IIIrd Courant Lectures

Heinrich Hopf, ETH - Zurich


The IInd Courant Lectures

Otto Neugebauer, Brown University

"The Sources of Medieval Mathematical Astronomy"


The Ist Courant Lectures
May 11, 1959

Eugene P. Wigner, Princeton University

"The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences"