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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Biography & Autobiography Programs


Palladio: Designing the Renaissance

Friday, June 3, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Italian Renaissance art historian Elaine Ruffolo explores the life and career of Andrea Palladio (1508–1580), arguably the most influential architect in the Western world. His works range from magnificent villas in the Veneto to churches in Venice. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Royal Rivals: The Cartiers and Fabergé

Friday, June 10, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

When the French jewelry firm Cartier and Russian Carl Fabergé decided to open showrooms abroad—on the same street in London—the scene was set for an epic international battle. Join curator Kieran McCarthy, a Fabergé specialist, and author Francesca Cartier Brickell, a Cartier descendant, for a sumptuously illustrated talk about the relationship and rivalry between two of the greatest names in luxury in the early 20th century.


Judy Garland: A 100th Birthday Tribute

Thursday, June 16, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Her decades of stardom and struggle were marked by bouts of alcohol and drug abuse, multiple divorces, and career swings, but Judy Garland remains one of the greatest interpreters of American popular song. American music specialist Robert Wyatt explores highlights from her extraordinary life with clips from her movies and television specials.


Women Astronomers Reach for the Stars

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

For much of the 20th century, the doors of opportunity stayed closed to women in astronomy, but after decades of difficult struggles they are closer to equality than ever before. Virginia Trimble, co-editor of the new anthology The Sky Is for Everyone, is joined by two of the book’s contributors to discuss the stories of the tough and determined women who shaped a transformative era in astronomy.


Vermeer: In Praise of the Ordinary

Saturday, June 25, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET

Explore the legacy of painter Johannes Vermeer, a master of light and color whose paintings captured the beauty and meaning of everyday life, with art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)


Smithsonian Secretaries: 175 Years of Challenges and Achievements

Thursday, June 30, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Throughout its history, the Smithsonian Institution has been shaped by just 14 secretaries, each interpreting and adapting founder James Smithson’s educational mandate in the context of their times. Smithsonian historian Pamela Henson focuses on five leaders who have left the largest imprints, from Joseph Henry, the institution’s first head, to Lonnie G. Bunch III, the current—and first African American—secretary.


The Story of the House of Windsor: What’s in a Name?

Thursday, July 28, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the history of the House of Windsor, including its four monarchs, the royal family's German heritage, and its image in modern times.


Caravaggio: The Cursed Painter

Monday, August 1, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET

Caravaggio (1571–1610) not only revolutionized painting at the turn of the 16th century with his hyper-realistic style, he often turned Rome on its head with his criminal behavior. Rocky Ruggiero, a specialist in the Early Renaissance, traces Caravaggio’s works and how they are intimately tied to his personal demons.  (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Nikola Tesla: An Inventor Re-invents Military Technology

Friday, September 9, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the 21st century, the life and accomplishments of inventor, engineer, and futurist Nikola Tesla have risen from almost total obscurity to topics of fresh interest. Author Marc J. Seifer, one of the world’s leading Tesla experts, surveys his most significant discoveries that continue to influence today's military technology and diplomatic strategies.


Miles Davis: Prince of Style

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Miles Davis was a restless innovator, controversial celebrity, and the dominant jazz figure of the second half of the 20th century. In a program highlighted by clips and musical recordings, John Edward Hasse, longtime curator of American music at the National Museum of American History, recounts Davis’s struggles against racism, convention, and his own demons.


Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life

Monday, September 26, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

As the leader of a team of federal agents known as the Untouchables, Eliot Ness’ two-fisted enforcement of Prohibition-era laws and relentless pursuit of mob boss Al Capone cemented his image as the embodiment of uncompromising justice. Join author Daniel Stashower and actor Scott Seder as they bring this icon to life, from his early exploits in Chicago to his unprecedented manhunt for America’s version of Jack the Ripper.


Margaret Beaufort and the Making of the Tudor Dynasty

Tuesday, September 27, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Margaret Beaufort cannily navigated the Wars of the Roses with a single goal in mind: assuring the royal future of her son Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII. Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the rise of this matriarch within the fractious courts of the late 15th century and why she emerged as one of the most powerful women in England.