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Professor Andrew Harrison: oration

Read Professor Chick Wilson's oration on Andrew Harrison for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in July 2019.


Andrew Harrison
Andrew Harrison

Vice-Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present to you an inspirational scientist who couples outstanding research excellence with influential and high level executive roles in international facilities, carried out with a commitment, compassion, humanity and humility that is an inspiration to many.

Professor Andrew Harrison has an outstanding international reputation for his work on magnetic materials and neutron diffraction, and more recently has been become acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading research leaders, with a high degree of international recognition and influence. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Light Source Limited, the UK’s national synchrotron facility, highly influential in the area of the development of UK central science facilities, and a strong advocate for enhancing links between UK Universities and the central facilities for the benefit of the academic sector. In his academic career, Andrew initially held Fellowship roles at St John’s College Oxford and at the University of Edinburgh, where as Professor of Solid-State Chemistry, he was founding Director of the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions, a Centre revolutionary in its cross-disciplinary focus.

My own links with Andrew go back almost 30 years, through shared research interests in neutron diffraction, which Andrew deployed widely in ground-breaking research on magnetic solid state chemical materials in his glittering primary research career. We even published a paper together – in 2002 – on research that was a simply fantastic idea, which sadly did not quite work as we had anticipated, but was hugely interesting (in our opinion) in any case! Andrew remains a collaborator and advisor to many colleagues here in Bath, where we are heavy users of the central facilities.

As an expert, committed and visionary user of the central facilities, Andrew rapidly became a leader in the user community, and in 2006 moved on from his successful academic career to assume the role of UK Associate Director of the Institut LaueLangevin, Grenoble. For such a talented scientist, it was a major step to move from academia; I recall discussing the move with Andrew but to be frank it was easy to advise that his inspirational abilities would be ideally suited to such a senior leadership role. So it turned out. Andrew soon became Director General at ILL, where among many achievements, he established the next major phase of the ILL’s development, the 15 year ENDURANCE upgrade project, taking the Institute towards 2030. It was inevitable that his success at ILL would be noted back home; indeed in 2014 Andrew was tempted back to the UK to become CEO of Diamond. Diamond employs more than 600 staff and serves over 9000 scientists in universities and industry. Andrew’s engaged approach, underpinned by his huge talent, enables him to lead this complex organisation in an astonishingly human way. Nice guys really can be hugely successful and win hard battles!

Andrew has been appointed to a large number of honorary positions, chaired many international advisory and strategic bodies and engaged in extensive outreach and advocacy activities, from popular public lectures to regular engagement with government ministers and European Commission politicians. I would perhaps highlight just one of Andrew’s many awards. In 2002, he was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy. Andrew was inducted into that Fellowship in the same ceremony as an author of whom some of you may have heard, by the name of Joanne (Kathleen) Rowling. Probably the only occasion I have heard Andrew say he was slightly in awe of something or someone!

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Andrew Harrison, who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.


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