Cambridge has a new Regius Professor, after Her Majesty The Queen conferred the royal title on the University’s existing Professorship of Botany during a ceremony in the Senate-House on Thursday.

It is the first time Queen Elizabeth II has created a Regius Professorship: the last to be created in the country was at Aberdeen in 1912.

The new Regius Professorship of Botany brings the number of Regius Professors at Cambridge to seven, joining Civil Law, Divinity, Greek, Hebrew and Physic (all founded by Henry VIII in 1540) and Modern History (founded by George I in 1724). Historically, Regius Professorships were created by the Crown in disciplines judged to be fundamental, and for which there is a continuing and significant need.

The Professorship of Botany at Cambridge has existed since 1724, but although it had early royal connections, it never benefited from the title of Regius. It is the senior chair in the Department of Plant Sciences at Cambridge, which teaches and researches the fundamental plant processes which sustain life on earth – from molecular genetics to rainforest ecology.

The modern discipline of Plant Sciences underpins the preservation of natural heritage and biodiversity, food security, and the development of medicines and important fuels.

During the ceremony, in The Queen’s gracious reply to the University’s Loyal Address, Her Majesty explained the reason for choosing the chair of Botany to receive a mark of royal favour in 2009, the University’s 800th Anniversary:

“It is a happy coincidence that this year also marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose studies at Christ’s College helped to inspire his passion for the natural sciences, which gave rise to major changes in our perception of life on earth.

The University’s Department of Plant Sciences still holds all the botanical specimens which Darwin sent back to his mentor, the then Professor of Botany, John Henslow during his voyage in the Beagle.”

The Registrary presented the new Regius Professor of Botany, Sir David Baulcombe, to The Queen during the ceremony, and received on behalf of the University the Royal Warrant granting the new title.


Pictured are the seven Regius Professors:

Back row L-R: Sir David Baulcombe, Botany; Richard Hunter, Greek; David Ford, Divinity; David Ibbetson, Civil Law

Front row L-R: Robert Gordon, Hebrew; Richard Evans, Modern History; Patrick Sissons, Physic.

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