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Honorary degree recipients to include former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The University of Oxford has revealed the list of eight people who will be receiving an honorary degree this year. Each recipient has demonstrated outstanding achievement in their field, and they will be celebrated at the Encaenia ceremony at the end of Trinity term.

Here are this year’s recipients:

Professor Frances Arnold is an American chemical engineer at the California Institute of Technology. She received the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the directed evolution of enzymes.” On the topic of enzymes, she told Cherwell: “I’m thrilled that Oxford is honouring science, engineering, and evolution—the most powerful, and enduring, of all design processes. And enzymes. Let’s not forget about enzymes, because they are pretty great chemists.”

Michelle Bachelet is an impressive Chilean politician who served two terms as President of Chile and one term as the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights. As President, she created marine protection areas, expanded social protection for women and children, and promoted renewable energy. She was also the founding Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. 

Lyse Doucet is a Canadian journalist who currently serves as BBC’s Chief International Correspondent. She covers pressing events around the world and presents on BBC Radio 4, BBC News, BBC World Service radio, and BBC World News television.

Professor Stephen Furber is a computer engineer at the University of Manchester. He was previously a principal designer of the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, and he now leads research into neural systems engineering. He told Cherwell: “I’m very much looking forward to what I hope will be a sunny summer solstice, falling on the 75th anniversary of the Manchester Baby Machine’s first successful execution of a program stored in its electronic memory. It is, of course, a great honour to receive this distinction from the University of Oxford, which ranks among the world’s greatest universities, and I feel very privileged to have this association with Oxford.” The Manchester Baby was the world’s first electronic stored-program computer and was built at the University of Manchester in 1948.

Professor Paul Gilroy is a cultural and social theorist at University College London. He has made significant contributions to critical race theory and Black British culture. He has authored several books, lectured around the world, and serves as the founding director of the UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation.

Val McDermid is a prolific Scottish writer. Her 39th novel, Past Lying, will be released later this year. Her previous novels have sold over 18 million copies and been translated into more than 40 languages. She told Cherwell: “When I became the first Scottish state school pupil to be accepted at St Hilda’s when I was only 16, I thought that was honour enough. I never dreamed that one day I’d have an Honorary Doctorate conferred on me. To say I’m thrilled and delighted would be an understatement and I’m looking forward to the celebrations.”

Professor Malik Peiris is a Sri-Lankan virologist at the University of Hong Kong. He was the first person to isolate the SARS virus in 2003, helping prevent a pandemic. He has previously advised the World Health Organization and the Hong Kong government on public health.

Professor Sir Simon Schama is a historian at Columbia University. He is also a contributing editor of the Financial Times, the author of 20 books, and the writer-presenter of 60 documentaries on art, history and literature for BBC television. He will be discussing his most recent book, which covers “the history of pandemics, vaccines and the health of nations,” at the Oxford Literary Festival on May 22nd.

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