June 12, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 18

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    University to confer five honorary doctorates at Convocation

    The University will confer honorary degrees on five distinguished scholars—John Barrell, Marc Davis, John Henry McDowell, Kip Thorne and Gernot Wilhelm—in recognition of their significant contributions to their fields of study through research and scholarship. The honorary degrees will be presented at Session II of the University’s Friday, June 13 Convocation.

    John Barrell, professor of 18th-century studies in English and related literature at the University of York, will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

    One of the world’s leading scholars of British literary history, Barrell’s work spans the Enlightenment through Romanticism. His work ranges from the specific to broad studies of social and political issues of the late-18th and 19th centuries.

    He also has published works on the poetry, fiction and drama of the period, as well as on paintings and political cartoons. His extensive work on landscape has shaped the understanding of the topic.

    James Chandler, the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, will introduce Barrell at the Convocation.

    Marc Davis, professor of astronomy and physics at the University of California, Berkeley, will receive a Doctor of Science degree.

    Davis built and carried out the first comprehensive galaxy red-shift study, which revealed the large-scale structure of the universe. He and his colleagues also constructed instruments that helped map the heavens.

    Davis led surveys that measured cosmic-mass density, which helped show how galaxies and their complex structure evolved over billions of years, from the first moments after the Big Bang.

    Joshua Frieman, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College, will introduce Davis at the Convocation.

    John McDowell, the university professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

    McDowell’s contributions to the study of philosophy are countless, and careful, eloquent arguments shape his work. His articles on moral philosophy helped revive the realist tradition in moral theory, and he has greatly influenced views on ancient philosophy, modern German philosophy and modern analytic tradition.

    His book, Mind and the World, which synthesizes the themes of his prior work in a comprehensive new argument, is regarded by many of his peers as one of the finest philosophical classics of the past half-century.

    Robert Pippin, the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy and the College, will introduce McDowell.

    Kip Thorne, the Feynman professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology, will receive a Doctor of Science degree.

    Thorne has helped lead the field of general relativity and has trained generations of graduate students for the past 40 years. His contributions have added new knowledge to the theories of gravitational collapse and black holes and to issues relating to the generation and detection of gravitational waves.

    Thorne’s books and lectures have brought the field of general relativity to the public. He also helped lead the effort for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, an international project that seeks gravitational radiation.

    Robert Wald, the Charles H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Physics and the College, will introduce Thorne.

    Gernot Wilhelm, professor of ancient near eastern studies at the University of Würzburg, will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

    Wilhelm is a scholar of the ancient Near East, particularly the Hurrian civilization of northern Mesopotamia, whose significance in the region during the second millennium B.C. had been overlooked by scholars. Drawing on the vast sources of surrounding civilizations, Wilhelm helped bring the Hurrian language and culture to life.

    He also has led a long-term project of Hittite studies at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Mainz, Germany.

    Theo van den Hout, Professor in the Oriental Institute and the College, will introduce Wilhelm.