Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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Former Foreign Correspondent to Speak at Convocation

LEXINGTON, Va., Aug. 30, 2013 – An intellectual historian and former foreign correspondent for Reuters will be the speaker for VMI’s academic convocation this year. The convocation will be held in Cameron Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 11 a.m.

Jonathan Lyons, whose work focuses on the social history of ideas, will give remarks based on his recently published book, The Society for Useful Knowledge: How Benjamin Franklin and Friends Brought the Enlightenment to America.

In his book, Lyons argues that even before the American Revolution, the future United States was a breeding ground for useful knowledge, thanks to the efforts not only of Founding Fathers such as Franklin and Benjamin Rush, both signers of the Declaration of Independence, but also lesser known figures such as botanist John Bartram and mathematician David Rittenhouse.

In The Society for Useful Knowledge, Lyons writes that these men “firmly embedded the values of the mechanic, the artisan, the engineer and the inventor in American society.” Because of this, he believes, the course was set for America to become a scientific and technological powerhouse.

Lyons’ other works, such as Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism and Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in 21st Century Iran, examine the tension between East and West.

While working for Reuters, Lyons was posted in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union. He has also worked in Turkey, Iran, and Indonesia. Lyons holds a doctorate in sociology from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and a bachelor’s degree in Russian and history from Wesleyan University.

Lyons’ visit is funded by the H.B. Johnson Jr. ’26 Distinguished Lecture Series. The event is free and open to the public.