Hollingsworth Lecturer in Ethics 2014-2015: Alexander McCall Smith

Title of Lecture: "Fictional People, Real Issues"

Friday, April 10, 2015 — 4:00 PM, Nau Hall 101

Internationally acclaimed writer Alexander McCall Smith will deliver the 2014-2015 Hollingsworth Lecture in Ethics at the University of Virginia on Friday, April 10, 2015, at 4:00 PM in Nau Hall 101 in the New South Lawn. Mr. McCall Smith has been Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, where he is now Emeritus Professor, and has made major contributions to bioethics and public policy.

But Mr. McCall Smith is best known as a writer, with more than 100 books in print. His books range from diverse academic works to over thirty children’s books to the beloved No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which is set in Botswana and features Precious Ramotswe. This series has topped bestseller lists around the world, has been translated into 40 languages, and has sold more than 20 million copies. The fifteenth book in this series, The Handsome Man’s DeLuxe Café, was published in November 2014. In 2009 HBO telecast a series based on these works, with American singer/actress Jill Scott as Precious.

Another series of novels, the Sunday Philosophy Club mystery series features Isabel Dalhousie, a female sleuth and editor of a philosophical journal, The Review of Applied Ethics. The first book in the series, which appeared in 2004, is entitled The Sunday Philosophy Club. Subsequent titles include Friends, Lovers, Chocolate; The Right Attitude to Rain; The Careful Use of Compliments; The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday; The Lost Art of Gratitude; The Charming Quirks of Others; The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds; and, forthcoming in Spring 2015, Strange Habits of Happiness, the tenth Dalhousie mystery.

His other fiction includes the Portuguese Irregular Verbs trilogy about German academic life (von Igelfeld series), the serial novels 44 Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions, and many stand-alone novels. Mr. McCall Smith is also an expert on 20th century British-American poet W. H. Auden; his personal collection of Auden's works is among the world's finest, and he is author of What W. H. Auden Can Do for You.

Mr. McCall Smith’s contributions to ethics, law, and policy are immense. He has served as vice chair of the U.K.’s Human Genetics Commission, chaired the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee, and was a member of the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO.

At least a dozen universities have recognized his contributions with honorary doctorates. He was honored as a CBE for his services to literature in the Queen's New Year Honors List in 2007. In 2010, he was awarded the Presidential Order of Merit by the President of Botswana. The recipient of many awards for his academic and public policy work as well as for his writing, he is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; Fellow of The Academy of Medical Sciences; and Senior Fellow of Massey College.

Mr. McCall Smith, who was born in Rhodesia (what is now Zimbabwe), received his education there and in Scotland, where he eventually became a professor of law. He returned to Africa for several years and helped to establish a new law school at the University of Botswana. He resides in Edinburgh with his wife Elizabeth, who is a physician. They have two daughters.

Previous Hollingsworth Lecturers in Ethics include:

  • Ronald Green (Dartmouth College)
  • Bettina Schoene-Seifert (University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany)
  • Lainie Ross (University of Chicago School of Medicine)
  • Alta Charo (University of Wisconsin School of Law)
  • Anita Allen (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Tom L. Beauchamp (Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University)
  • Willis Jenkins (Yale Divinity School and Yale School of Forestry)
  • Stanley Hauerwas (Duke University Divinity School)
  • Joanna Rudnick (Film maker, San Francisco, CA)
  • Thomas Pogge (Yale University)