James Ford Bell Library

Annual James Ford Bell Lectures

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?

Award-winning author Andrew Lawler will present the 2014 James Ford Bell Lecture on Thursday, October 30, 2014.

Chickens have been our most important partner in spreading civilization across the globe—more important than heroic dogs, faithful horses, or multi-purpose cattle. Where humans thrived, so did the chicken—and vice versa. In “Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?” (Atria Books; $26.00; December 2, 2014), veteran journalist Andrew Lawler explores the hidden and forgotten history of a bird that profoundly shaped the way our species plays and prays, as well as dines. We didn’t simply tame a wild creature thousands of years ago—we transformed it and made it a key component in our agriculture, cuisine, religious rituals, gambling games, and medicine. How did the chicken achieve such cultural and culinary dominance? Join us at the University of Minnesota on Oct. 23 for the 51st James Ford Bell Lecture and hear Lawler talk about the research for “Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization.” This event is sponsored by the Associates for the James Ford Bell Library and co-sponsored by the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries.

7:30 p.m., Elmer L. Andersen Library

About Andrew Lawler

Lawler is an award-winning writer/journalist. His work has appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Discovery, and Columbia Journalism Review, among others. He is a contributing writer to Science Magazine, a contributing editor to Archaeology Magazine, and author of the forthcoming book “Why Did the Chicken Cross the World.” Born May 25, 1961 in the Virginia port city of Norfolk, Andrew Lawler sold roses, worked as a dishwasher and did a stint in an Alaskan fish cannery before discovering journalism in 1984. As an associate editor at The Futurist, he learned the ropes of publishing and helped redesign the magazine. He then landed a job as a reporter for a space publication just days before the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, and spent the next decade and a half covering Washington politics for a host of newsletters, newspapers, and magazines. Lawler interviewed Vice President Dan Quayle on Air Force 2, Al Gore in his White House office, and President George Herbert Walker Bush on a trip to Houston. He also covered Congress, federal agencies, and advisory committees. During that time, Lawler founded “Space Station News,” helped launch the weekly newspaper Space News, and traveled widely around the world writing about space, science, and technology. After a year at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism fellow, he founded Science Magazine’s New England bureau and began reporting frequently on archaeology in the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and China. His stories have appeared in more than a dozen publications, as well as in several volumes of the Best of American Science and Nature Writing. Lawler is now a contributing correspondent to Science Magazine and Archaeology Magazine.


The James Ford Bell Lecture is offered each year with the support of the Associates of the James Ford Bell Library.

2010 Lecture

2012 Lecture

2014 Lecture

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