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Durham University

Durham University News


Durham salutes science, Shakespeare and social inclusion

(26 August 2005)

Durham University is celebrating the start of its new Chancellor Bill Bryson’s period of office by awarding honorary degrees to three people nominated by him.

Chancellor Bryson has selected the distinctive trio for their individual contribution to three areas that have been of particular importance to him in his own work: science, Shakespeare and social inclusion.

They are:

  • Professor Richard Dawkins – author of many books that have raised awareness about scientific issues among a very wide public. He will receive an honorary DSc – Doctor of Science – degree.
  • Professor Stanley Wells – a distinguished expert on Shakespeare, whose work has widely influenced the study and performance of the plays. He will receive an honorary D Litt – Doctor of Letters – degree.
  • The Reverend Nicholas Holtam – Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London, writer, broadcaster and advocate for human rights, who is already a Durham graduate, with a BA in Geography and MA in Theology. He will receive an honorary DCL – Doctor of Civil Law – degree.

Bill Bryson is the author of the popular science book A Short History of Nearly Everything; he is currently working on a book about Shakespeare and he identifies with the values and spirit of the work of St Martin’s and the causes associated with it.

He said: “From Stanley Wells’ books, which are excellent and genial, he seems a kindly, devoted man with a long, distinguished career. His editions are a huge help to other scholars, generations of students, actors and directors - and now also to me, as I am researching a book about Shakespeare.

"Public perceptions about science have improved enormously during the last couple of decades. We all know much more about new discoveries and the issues involved than we used to - which is how it should be. Thanks in large measure to the work and influence of Richard Dawkins.

"I admire St Martin's-in-the Fields for all of its good work and also as a building. Nick Holtam is a real source of energy, ideas and values both for the church and its role in the wider world. It was great to discover that he had studied at Durham too. "

Vice-Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman said:

“We all look forward to welcoming Professor Dawkins and Professor Wells into the family of the University- and to extending our connection with Mr Holtam.”

The Chancellor will confer the degrees at a ceremony on 9 November in Durham Cathedral.