Monthly Programs

Most months a member will give a presentation, discussing a current work in progress, the research and writing process, or an area of personal interest and expertise. A collegial Q&A ensues, and the speaker can, if they wish, ask for suggestions for improvement in case they will be giving the talk at other venues. These programs are usually held at 2:00 PM on the third Sunday of the month, except for December; exceptions can be made as necessary. A digital projector and screen are available. Another member volunteers to take notes and write a report for the newsletter, or the speaker may provide a synopsis instead.

We try to have a speaker each month, though this is not always possible. Ideally, we schedule the programs as far in advance as possible. Members who are interested in giving a talk or other program (such as a film or exhibit tour) should email

Videos of some presentations can be viewed on our YouTube Channel.

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, September 17, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.
How We Domesticated Fire, and Fire Domesticated Us"
A Presentation by Jim Gasperini
Jim is nearing completion of his cultural history of fire, Fire in the Mind: From the Burning Bush to Burning Man, How We Imagine Fire. He will base his presentation on a chapter of the book.
How did we, alone among the animals, come to control fire? Every human culture has at least one story explaining how this happened, ranging from simple accidents to fantastic stories of trips on gossamer balloons to steal fire from the Moon People. Analysis of these stories brings up such questions as: why do so many, such as the Greek myth of Prometheus, require that fire be stolen? Why do so many involve explicit sexual symbolism? Even Sigmund Freud created a myth about control of fire, with comically bizarre sexual symbolism.
Jim will also explain current scientific thinking about our early encounters with fire, drawing on a wide range of scientific disciplines, including a study of the genetics of human lice. In the process of domesticating fire, fire domesticated us: to keep the fire going we needed to learn to cooperate, and invented fire-preserving rituals. Our partnership with fire drastically changed our bodies and our brains. That we have imaginations at all we owe in part to our relationship with fire.
Jim Gasperini is the Institute's webmaster and a member of its Board. A Williams College graduate, he designed and wrote initial titles for the Time Machine series of interactive history books for young adults (Bantam); wrote Hidden Agenda, an educational game about Central American politics (Scholastic); and designed the third version of the city-planning simulation Sim City. Through his 3D photography company Cockeyed Creations he researched and published sets of stereograph reproductions for the White House Historical Association, Gettysburg and Antietam national military parks, and many museums, zoos, and national parks. A draft of Fire in the Mind won Grand Prize in the 2022 Writing Contest at the San Francisco Writers Conference. See more about the book and his background at
We need a volunteer to write a short report on the presentation for the newsletter. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the program coordinator (Dan Kohanski).
The presentation will be recorded, and the question-and-answer part will be posted on YouTube for IHS members only. If you don’t want to be on the recording, just make sure your video is off. And please remember to mute your microphone!