The Gifford Lectureships were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford (1820–1887), a Scottish advocate and judge. The stated purpose of his bequest was to provide for a series of lectures to be held at each of the four ancient universities of Scotland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews) ‘ “for promoting, advancing, teaching, and diffusing the study of natural theology”, in the widest sense of that term’.

Since 1888, the resultant Gifford Lectures have become one of the foremost public intellectual events in the field of theology, philosophy, ethics, and religion.

At the University of Aberdeen, Gifford Lectures have been delivered by a wide variety of esteemed scholars, including Alfred North Whitehead, Etienne Gilson, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Hannah Arendt, Richard Swinburne, Jaroslav Pelikan, Eleonore Stump, Sarah Coakley, Mona Siddiqui, David Novak, and N. T. Wright. These lectures are often published and achieve significant stature in the intellectual world.