Human beings have had a complex, ever-changing relationship with water for the past 10,000 years. Long before water became an anonymous commodity at the end of a faucet, people revered water and treasured it to an extent unimaginable in today’s world.

This year’s West Virginia University Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Lecturer is Brian Fagan, an author and emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His lecture, “Elixir: The History of Water and Humanity and What It Means for the Future,” will be delivered on Wednesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballroom. This event is free and open to the public.

Fagan is a leading authority on the complex relationship between the environment, climate change and human society. Fagan is the author or editor of 46 books, including eight college textbooks familiar to two generations of archaeology students. For audiences ranging from business executives to high school students, Fagan places today’s highly publicized climate crisis in a crucial historical context and describes how humans have adapted to environmental changes over the eons.

He spent six years as keeper of prehistory at the Livingstone Museum in Central Africa before relocating to the U.S., where he has been an educator at UC Santa Barbara since 1967. In addition to his books, Dr. Fagan has contributed more than 100 papers to scientific journals and has served as an archaeological consultant to the National Geographic Society, Time/Life, Encyclopedia Britannica and Microsoft Encarta.

“Elixir” is a fascinating journey that encompasses the brilliant water managers of classical Greece, the Roman aqueducts, the magnificent gardens of Islamic engineers, and the challenges of taming Chinese rivers. It’s the story of a largely forgotten world that existed before the diesel pumps and fossil fuels of the Industrial Revolution turned water into a seemingly limitless resource. And from this largely vanished world, Fagan draws timeless lessons about the vital importance of water conservation for our society today.

While he is here, Fagan will also be guest lecturing or visiting with students enrolled in various classes. These include FHYD 444: Watershed Management with Dr. Nicolas Zegre at 11 a.m. in 334 Percival Hall and GEOG 207 with Dr. Eungul Lee at 3:30 p.m. in 125 Brooks Hall.

Through its Distinguished Visitors Program, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences invites to WVU one or more distinguished visitors each year. These individuals visit campus for one or two days to meet with college faculty and students in special ways and provide the campus and local communities with a public program in the form of a reading, lecture, or other appropriate presentation.

This sharing of ideas and experiences is meant to inform and inspire arts and sciences students, particularly in the ideals of the Eberly College. Among these are: developing an aptitude for self-appraisal, fostering an understanding of the importance of a commitment to public issues and societal leadership, determining one’s role in the world, realizing the benefits of lifelong learning, and acquiring skills and knowledge for the workplace.

This event is being sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

For more information, please contact Brenda Riggle, ECAS operations director, at (304) 293-4611, or at



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