May 23, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 18

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    Three distinguished scholars to receive honorary degrees


    University to honor chemist, cosmologist, literary historian Honorary degrees will be awarded to three distinguished scholars -- chemist William Klemperer, literary historian Jerome McGann and cosmologist David Wilkinson -- at Convocation ceremonies on Friday afternoon, June 7, in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. President Sonnenschein will confer the degrees.

    The degrees will be awarded at the second session of Convocation, at 3 p.m. Friday, when degrees will also be presented to graduating students in the divisions, the Divinity School and the Pritzker School of Medicine as well as students receiving the Master of Liberal Arts degree. The first session of Convocation -- for the Law School, the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and the School of Social Service Administration -- will be held at 10 a.m. Friday; the third session, for the College, will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 8; and the fourth session, for the Graduate School of Business, will be held at 2 p.m. in Harper Quadrangle on Sunday, June 9.

    William Klemperer

    Klemperer, considered to be among the prime movers of science in the past half-century, will receive the Doctor of Science degree. He is the Erving Professor of Chemistry at Harvard.

    The first chemist to make full use of the molecular beam resonance technique, Klemperer constructed a powerful machine in the 1960s that he applied to the study of metal halides, oxides and hydrides, characterizing the physical and chemical properties of these molecules with unprecedented clarity and accuracy. He also developed chemical applications of the molecular beam techniques. His leading role in the area of molecular beams greatly influenced the subsequent burst of activity in the field. In the 1970s, his studies of dimers and polymers opened up the field of the spectroscopy of weakly bound molecular complexes and paved the way for the development of the science of clusters.

    Klemperer has also influenced many areas of physical chemistry, spectroscopy, quantum chemistry, collision dynamics, intramolecular interactions and chemical kinetics. He played the decisive role in a recent unification of chemistry and astronomy: Klemperer was the first scientist to conceive of the idea that in interstellar space, where the temperature is extremely low, ion-neutral reactions play the central role because they proceed without activation energy. This and other developments initiated by Klemperer have stimulated laboratory studies and initiated an avalanche of subsequent experiments in molecular ion spectroscopy and ion-neutral reaction kinetics.

    Klemperer received his A.B. from Harvard in 1950 and his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1954, the same year he joined the faculty at Harvard. He was assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences for the National Science Foundation from 1979 until 1981, when he was awarded the foundation's Distinguished Service Medal. He has received several other awards, including the Wetherill Medal from the Franklin Institute. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

    Jerome McGann

    McGann, known as one of the most innovative and influential figures in literary studies in the past 25 years, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. McGann is the John Stewart Bryan Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

    McGann's work has had an international impact on the study of British Romantic, Victorian and modern literature and on the theory and practice of textual editing.

    His many essays and books on Romanticism, now classics in the field, have in large part redefined the field for the latest generation of scholars. With a characteristic focus not only on literary history but on the history of criticism and reception more generally, McGann has overhauled the contemporary understanding of late-18th-century and early-19th-century English literature.

    McGann has been at least as influential in the modern development of textual editing and theory. In addition to having produced a multivolume, thoroughly revisionary critical edition of Byron's poetry, he is widely known for his pathbreaking contribution to editorial theory, insisting on the crucial relevance of the historical conditions under which texts are produced and circulated. He has shown how assumptions regarding a norm or ideal of solitary, identifiable authorship must be resolved into a more complex reckoning with time-bound processes of response, critique and revision performed by many hands. His editorial theory has replaced the standing concept of the "final" text with the core concept of the socially produced text as a guide to editing and interpreting works of literature.

    A former Chicago faculty member, from 1965 to 1976, McGann also taught at Johns Hopkins and Caltech before joining the faculty at the University of Virginia in 1988. He received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1966. He has received two Guggenheim fellowships and two NEH fellowships, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    David Wilkinson

    Wilkinson, whose research on the cosmic background radiation established the current paradigm for big-bang cosmology, will receive the Doctor of Science degree. He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor in the department of physics at Princeton.

    Wilkinson was a member of the research group that predicted that radiation released by the "big bang" that gave birth to the universe could be detected as radio waves from space. He and his collaborators have conceived and built ground-based, balloon-borne and satellite-borne experiments to study the cosmic background radiation. Their measurements have led to numerous findings, including the discovery of small variations in the intensity of the cosmic background radiation, a discovery that Stephen Hawking called the greatest discovery in cosmology ever.

    Also interested in the study of the electron as an elementary particle, Wilkinson shares credit for one of the most precise measurements of the magnetic moment of a free electron. He also was among a 13-member team of scientists who designed a small experimental package that was left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts during man's first lunar-landing mission in 1969. The 18-inch-square package contained 100 special reflectors and allowed the scientists to measure the distance from the earth to the moon with an accuracy of six inches.

    Wilkinson received his B.S.E. in 1957, his M.S.E. in 1959 and his Ph.D. in 1962, all from Michigan. Former chairman of the department of physics at Princeton, Wilkinson has been on the faculty there since 1963. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.