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Press Release - 14 July 2005

Swindon-born academic to receive honorary doctorate

A leading geographer who was born and brought up in Swindon is to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath.

Professor Ron Johnston has written about urban social geography, the British electoral system and the nature of human geography. His work includes devising new ways of measuring ethnic residential segregation.

His book Nature, State and Economy (1989) explored the difficulties that societies have in trying to tackle environmental problems. He was ahead of his time in tackling these themes and his work is relevant today.

Professor Johnson, who attended the Commonweal County Secondary Grammar School, Swindon, 1951-9, has also edited major journals in geography and his academic posts include his service as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex. He will receive the degree of Doctor of Letters.

He is one of eight people receiving honorary doctorates during the ceremonies over three days, Tuesday 19 July to Thursday 21 July, at Bath Abbey. Also graduating are around 1900 students. The ceremonies will be preceded by a public procession of some of the University of Bath's senior officers and academics, presided over by its Chancellor, Lord Tugendhat.

The other honorary graduates include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the acclaimed soprano will be awarded a Doctorate of Music.

One of the University’s most senior staff, Professor Peter Redfern, will tell an audience of around 600 University officials, academics, students and their families that Dame Kiri has “one of the most beautiful voices in the world” and that it was lucky for all that she had realised her potential to the full.

Dame Kiri was born in 1944 in Gisborne, New Zealand. By the age of 20, she had won several major vocal prizes in New Zealand before coming to London when she was 22.

In the early 1970s she became one of the most acclaimed and popular lyric sopranos and appeared with London's Royal Opera, New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Munich Opera, and other major houses worldwide. She moved rapidly into the front rank of international opera, and has become one of the most famous sopranos of recent times.

Her warm voice and stage personality have won her many fans, and she is noted for such roles as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus. She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982.

Other honorary graduates are:

• Sir Martin Evans. Sir Martin pioneered research into stem cells, an area of research with crucial importance for health, in which human cells are created in an attempt to cure diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease. In 1981 he found that stem cells derived from mouse embryos could be reintroduced into embryos and would contribute to their development. This discovery opened up the important area of stem cells to researchers across the world. Sir Martin later showed that the disease cystic fibrosis might be cured using an approach based on stem cells. Sir Martin is now Director of the School of Biosciences and Professor of Mammalian Genetics at Cardiff University. He will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Science.

• Professor Dame Julia Higgins. After a brief period as a school teacher, Dame Julia moved into research in chemical engineering, being appointed a professor at Imperial College in 1989. She has also been President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and is Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). She has also chaired the Committee for Academic Progress of Women and is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK’s highest science honour. She will receive the degree of Doctor of Science.

• U A Fanthorpe. Ursula Fanthorpe left her post as Head of English at Cheltenham Ladies’ College to train as a counsellor, and work as a secretary, receptionist and hospital clerk in Bristol. She drew upon her experiences for her first published volume of poetry Side Effects (1978). Her poetry has dealt with many themes including love and its absence, and the effects of war, as well as historical themes and personal reminiscences, often with humour. In 2001 she was awarded the CBE for services to poetry and in 2003 the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. She was also the first woman to be nominated for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry. Throughout all of this her home has been in Gloucestershire, near Bath. She will receive the degree of Doctor of Letters.

• Judith Howard. Professor Howard is one of the most distinguished academics working in X-ray crystallography, the science of determining the precise three-dimensional atomic structure of molecules by firing X-rays at them and examining the pattern that results. In 1991 Professor Howard took up a post as professor at the University of Durham, which she has turned into one of the world’s leading centres for X-ray crystallography. Her innovative work on low temperature crystallography, looking at how molecules behave at temperatures of around minus 270 Centigrade, has been at the forefront of the field. She received a CBE in 1996 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2002, the UK’s highest science award. She has also had a close relationship with the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath. She will receive the degree of Doctor of Science.

• Iain Gilmour Gray. Iain Gray is Managing Director of Airbus UK, which designed and manufactured the wings of the new Airbus A380 double-decker super-jumbo which will redefine long-haul air travel in the next several decades. He began working for British Aerospace in 1979, rising through the ranks in its structures, loads and stress engineering sections before being promoted to Engineering Director in 2000. When Airbus UK was formed as a stand-alone company in 2001 he became its Senior Vice President Engineering before taking up his present role in 2004. He is a Chartered Engineer, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and President of their Bristol branch. One of his hobbies is ‘collecting aeronautical ephemera’. He will receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering.

• Bruno Buchberger. Professor Buchberger formulated what is now called Buchberger’s algorithm which dealt with the mathematical theory of polynomial ideals. These have a practical value in engineering, robotics, physics, chemistry, economics and biology. Professor Buchberger, who was educated in Innsbruck, Austria, is also the founder of the Research Institute for Symbolic Computation at the Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria. He will receive the degree of Doctor of Science.

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/