Public Lectures


In 1871 Louis Guillaume Perreaux installed a compact steam engine in a commercial bicycle, and thus produced the world’s first motorcycle. Subsequently, thanks to a period of extraordinarily-rapid technological advance, by 1903 essentially all the components of a modern motorcycle were in place, and changes to the motorcycle since then have been largely the result of evolutionary refinement rather than revolutionary invention. Like many other objects of industrial design, motorcycles have played a variety of roles in society over the century and half since the Michaux-Perreaux. This talk examines the interrelationship of the relevant technological, cultural, and aesthetic factors over the past century that have, amongst other things, resulted in standard production motorcycles—incorporating such materials as carbon-fiber composites, maraging steels, and “exotic” alloys of magnesium, titanium and aluminum—that can exceed 190 mph (300 km/hr) straight from the show room floor. It also examines the important role motorcycles can play in providing environmentally-conscious transportation for a world facing increasing demands on its limited resources.

I organize my talks according to the following outline, although in an hour there is time to cover less than 20% of the visual materials I have prepared. This wealth of material allows me to create talks specifically for individual audiences—for one audience I will emphasize the technological background[1], while for another it will be the cultural[2], or the design aspects[3]. Although the “Background” content varies according to the specific audience, typically “The Art of the Motorcycle” segment makes up 40–50% of each talk.

(selected examples from the Guggenheim exhibition)

[1]The Art and the Materials Science of 190 mph Superbikes. Invited Talk at the Fall Meeting of the Materials Research Society, Boston. December 2–6, 2002 (published in the MRS Bulletin 28, 512–516, July 2003. (MRSmotorcycle.pdf)

[2]The Art and Science of the Motorcycle. Plenary Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the American Cultural Association, Albuquerque. February 13–17, 2002.

[3]The Art of the Motorcycle. Plenary Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the National Art Education Association, New Orleans. March 27–30, 2008.

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Excerpts from a 1998 Guggenheim video directed by Ultan Guilfoyle.

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Excerpts from CBS 60 Minutes and introductions to 1999 talk at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and 2002 talk at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Colloquia, Invited Talks, and Public Lectures on The Art & Science of the Motorcycle

Universities and Research Organizations

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory [Physics Division]
  • Centre College[Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture]
  • DePauw University [Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture]
  • Glendale College [College Speakers’ Forum]
  • Miami University of Ohio [George C. Benson Memorial Lecture]
  • Minnesota State University, Moorhead [Department of Physics]
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST Colloquium]
  • Princeton University [Louis Clark Vanuxem Lecture]
  • Rockford College [Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture]
  • Royal Institute of Technology [Department of Materials Science and Engineering] (Stockholm, Sweden)
  • St. Olaf College [Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture]
  • Santa Fe Institute; Universidad del PaĂ­s Vasco [Department of Theoretical Physics] (Bilbao, Spain)
  • University of Arizona [VP for Research’s Faculty Community Lecture Series; Alumni Association; College of Optical Sciences; Honors Program; School of Art]
  • University of Cincinnati [College of Applied Science]
  • University of llinois [Department of Physics]
  • University of Texas, Dallas [School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics]
  • University of Minnesota [Institute of Technology Alumni Public Lecture]
  • University of Washington [Department of Physics]
  • Washington University at St. Louis [Sesquicentennial Lecture Series].

Trade Groups and Other

  • American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation (Pickerington, OH; Lexington, OH)
  • American Motorcyclist Association (Las Vegas)
  • Discover Today’s Motorcycling (Monterey, CA)
  • Ducati North America (Las Vegas)
  • GK Dynamics (Tokyo)
  • Honda Performance Development (Las Vegas)
  • IBM Almaden Research Laboratory (San Jose)
  • Motorcycle Industry Council (Tustin, CA)
  • Pacific-Union Club (San Francisco)
  • Veteran, Vintage, and Classic Motor Cycle Club of the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra).

Museums and Libraries

  • Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art (Midland, MI)
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York; Las Vegas)
  • Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago)
  • West Valley Art Museum (Surprise, AZ)
  • Phoenix Museum of Art (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Phoenix Public Library (Phoenix, AZ).


  • American Culture Association Annual Meeting (Albuquerque)
  • American Physical Society March Meeting (New Orleans)
  • Arizona Art Education Association Annual Meeting (Prescott)
  • Association of Medical Illustrators Annual Meeting (Bozeman, MT)
  • Materials Research Society Fall Meeting (Boston)
  • National Art Education Association Annual Meeting (New Orleans).


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