In 1989 Professors Nathan Crystal of the Law School and the late Ferdinand Schoeman of the Philosophy Department collaborated to develop the concept of an interdisciplinary visiting scholar program. With the support of the Deans of their respective colleges, two seminars took place. In 1989 Professor Robert Post of the University of California at Berkeley led a seminar on "Community and Liberalism: Problems with Free Speech and Privacy." In 1990 Professor Deborah Rhode of Stanford Law School conducted a seminar on "The Impact of Feminist Theory on Law, the Humanities, and Social Science." The next year family and friends of distinguished Columbia attorney, Charles Wilson Knowlton, began establishment of an endowment in his memory to support the program, which is now entitled the Charles Knowlton Law and Liberal Arts Visiting Scholar Program.
The Knowlton Visiting Scholar Program brings together faculty and students from various departments to promote interdisciplinary discussion and scholarship. The Knowlton Scholar delivers a public lecture, usually on Thursday at 5:00; moderates an interdisciplinary seminar of faculty drawn from various departments of the University, typically on Friday after lunch; and meets with students. A committee of five faculty members from the law school and four from Humanities and Social Science selects the Knowlton scholar. Current Committee members are:
- School of Law
- Josephine Brown
- Danielle Holley-Walker
- Amy Milligan
- Joseph Seiner
- College of Arts & Sciences
- Ex Officio
- Dean Robert M. Wilcox, School of Law
- Dean Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, College of Arts & Sciences
The Knowlton program has brought to campus internationally known scholars from various disciplines:
- Dr. Catharine MacKinnon (University of Michigan), Spring 2009
- “Women's Status, Men's States”
- Dr. Eric R. Kandel (Columbia), Physiology or Medicine, Spring 2007
- "We Are What We Remember: Memory and the Biological Basis of Individuality"
- Professor Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago School of Law, Spring 2006
- "Radical Evil in the Lockean State: The Neglect of the Political Emotions"
- Professor G. Edward White (Virginia), Legal History, Spring 2005
- "Historicizing Judicial Scrutiny"
- Professor Maria Rosa Menocal (Yale), Medieval Arab World, Fall 2002
- "Culture as Tolerance: The Surprising Legacies of Medieval Europe"
- Professor Garry Wills (Northwestern), History, Spring 1999
- "Government and the Arts"
- Professor Lani Guinier (Harvard) Law, Race and Gender, Spring 1998
- "Reframing the Affirmative Action Debate"
- Professor Richard Epstein (Chicago), Law & Economics, Fall 1996
- "Modern Uses of Ancient Law"
- Professor Stephen Jay Gould (Harvard), History of Science, Spring 1995
- "Why Progress Does Not Rule the History of Life, and Why No One Hits .400 Any More: Thoughts on the Nature of Excellence"
- Professor Ronald Dworkin (N.Y.U. and Oxford), Law & Philosophy, Spring 1993
- "Life's Dominion - An Argument - Abortion, Euthanasia and Individual Freedom"
- Professor Jarislav Pelikan (Yale), History, Fall 1993
- "The Idea of the University"
The lecture is made possible by generous support from the Knowlton Family; Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A.; Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, L.L.P., and the many friends and associates of Charles Knowlton who admired his outstanding contributions to the legal profession.