The importance that the University of Cambridge attributes to its ties with India was underscored on Wednesday 18 June when Dr Yusuf Hamied, the leading Indian pharmaceutical chemist and philanthropist, was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.

At a ceremony held in the University’s Senate House, in which Honorary Degrees were conferred on such remarkable individuals as actor and activist Sir Ian McKellen, classical pianist Mitsuko Uchida, and lawyer and anti-Apartheid campaigner Albie Sachs, Dr Hamied – who is Chairman of the Indian pharmaceutical giant Cipla Ltd—was recognised for his contribution to public health in the developed world.

His degree citation described his life-long efforts to provide life-saving medicines to those who could least afford it:

“He produced AIDS medicines at a cost of less than a dollar a day. He combined the drugs into a single pill which can be taken daily. His drugs have saved so many people that his company has been called the world’s pharmacy. Indeed, in Africa, it has been said, Cipla is a temple, and Dr Hamied its God. But this most humanitarian of men simply replies, ‘I don’t want to make money from these diseases which cause the whole fabric of society to crumble.”

Dr Hamied (Christ’s College, m. 1954), who studied Natural Sciences and then completed a PhD in Organic Chemistry at Cambridge, and has generously helped establish the Cambridge Hamied Visiting Lectureship, is the latest in a distinguished line of Indian citizens to receive such a distinction. Previous honorary graduates from India include Nobel laureates, statesmen, industrialists, and philanthropists.

The nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha, FRS, known as the “father of India’s nuclear programme” was awarded an honorary degree in 1959. Bhabha worked at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and received a doctorate in physics from the University in 1934.

In 1993 the then President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, who attended Fitzwilliam College, was awarded an honorary degree. The University has recognised former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh, in 2006, and Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1953, with honorary doctorates. In 1953, the then Vice President (who went on to become President), Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, also had a degree conferred upon him.

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science recipient, Amartya Sen, received an honorary doctorate in 2009. Sen, an economist, was Master of Trinity College from 1998 to 2004. Another well-known Indian Nobel Prize winner, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, had her degree conferred upon her in 1975.

India's leading industrialist Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group, received his honorary degree of Doctor of Law in 2010.

Dr Hamied’s award reflects the continued importance Cambridge ascribes to its partnerships with India, stretching back over 150 years.

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