Honorary degree recipients

Ninety-nine-year-old 'oldest honorary degree recipient in Cambridge history'

Joyce's work at Aphrodisias [Turkey] really changed historians' views about how the Roman empire worked. I bet it will still be being read in 200 years' time

Professor Mary Beard

Among today’s eight new honorary doctors was 99-year-old classicist and epigrapher Joyce Reynolds, believed to be the oldest recipient of the University’s highest honour.

Joining her in being recognised for outstanding contributions in their fields were former Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, physiologist Dame Frances Ashcroft, genome editing pioneer Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier, President of the Royal Society, Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, poet and literary scholar Sir Michael Edwards, historian Professor Robert Evans and historian, social scientist and author of seminal works on US race relations, Professor Ira Katznelson.

Their compelling achievements were today rewarded with the highest accolade the University can bestow.

Born in 1918, Dr Reynolds became one of the world’s leading historians of the ancient world, exploring remote areas of Libya, Syria, Romania and Turkey – often as the only woman on an archaeological dig. She drove an all-woman party of archaeologists across North Africa in the 1950s, and is currently working on a major publication of the graffiti of Pompeii.

In her long career, Reynolds has taught students who have gone on to shape the field of classics in their turn, including Dame Mary Beard, who said: “Joyce’s work at Aphrodisias [Turkey] really changed historian’s views about how the Roman empire worked. I bet it will still be being read in 200 years time.” Reynolds became a Doctor of Letters.

Honorary degrees were conferred at a Congregation in the Senate House today (Wednesday 20 June 2018) presided over by the Chancellor, Lord Sainsbury of Turville.

A Doctorate of Law was conferred on Sir Leszek for a lifetime contribution to academic leadership, both nationally and to collegiate Cambridge as Vice-Chancellor. Sir Leszek has also had an outstanding career as a physician and clinical researcher, including undertaking Europe's first trial of a vaccine against human papillomavirus to prevent cervical cancer.

Dame Frances received a Doctorate in Medical Science for her achievements, including discoveries about the function and structure of ion channels and the role which certain channels play with insulin secretion and type 2 diabetes. She was also only the third British woman to be named European Laureate in the L’Oreal – UNESCO For Women in Science Awards (in 2011).

The degree of Doctor of Science was conferred on Professor Charpentier for her contributions to medical science, including her advances in genome editing that allow researchers “to cut and paste the very language of life written in the nucleus of the cells as easily as they edit their papers,” according to the oration about her, during the ceremony.

Dr Ramakrishnan, a Nobel Prizewinner, received the degree of Doctor of Science for his contributions to medical research, including his work into ribosomal structure and function.

A Doctorate of Letters was conferred on Sir Michael, who as well as writing poetry in both languages, is a specialist both English and French poetry and drama and the first Briton to be elected a member of the Académie française.

Author of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, Professor Katznelson also received the degree of Doctor of Letters.

The same degree was conferred on Professor Evans, renowned for his work on Central and Eastern Europe and especially the Habsburg Empire, 

The day of the Honorary Degree Congregation is a 'scarlet day', so called because doctors wear scarlet instead of black gowns.   Flags were flown to mark the occasion and the bells of the University Church rang out as processions walked around Senate-House Yard.

The University has been conferring honorary degrees for some 500 years. One of the earliest recorded was in 1493, when the poet John Skelton was honoured.

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