June 12, 1997
Vol. 16, No. 19

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    Six distinguished scholars to receive honorary degrees

    Honorary degrees will be awarded at convocation ceremonies to six of the most distinguished scholars in their fields -- Jean Bottero, Edouard Jeauneau, Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo, Emily Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Carl Wieman and Reinhard Zimmermann.

    Zimmermann will receive his degree at the first session. Degrees will be presented at the second session to Bottero, Jeauneau, Mengaldo and Wieman, and at the third session to Savage-Rumbaugh.

    Jean Bottero

    Jean Bottero, who has greatly expanded scholars' understanding of the civilizations of the ancient Near East, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Recently retired, he was directeur d'etudes at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris for over 30 years.

    Schooled in philosophy and trained in Old Testament studies and Semitic philology, Bottero is one of the foremost experts in the philology of Sumerian and Akkadian texts, and widely known for his beautifully crafted translations of mythological texts.

    Of his studies of Mesopotamian religion, including the ethical and philosophical problem of evil, many are now also available in English, in the volume Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, published by the Press in 1993.

    His most recent writings -- on Mesopotamian man's encounters with the transcendental and the divine, and the place of Mesopotamian experience in the growth of rationality -- have garnered the attention of a broader audience, reflected in the recently published intellectual biography Babylone et la Bible, an honor conferred upon only a select few.

    Edouard Jeauneau Edouard Jeauneau, an eminent authority on medieval philosophical thought, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He is professor emeritus at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto.

    By recovering the texts and speculations of leading medieval Platonists, Jeauneau has rewritten key chapters in the history of education and philosophy and transformed scholars' understanding of thinkers who were pivotal in the formation of European culture. His editions, commentaries and works of synthesis -- including his Philosophie Medievale, now in its third edition and available in a half-dozen languages -- have reshaped the history of Platonism in 9th- to 12th-century Europe.

    Since 1968, when he joined the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, where he was a researcher and then director of research until 1992, Jeauneau has focused on the key platonic thinker of the early Middle Ages: John Scotus Eriugena. Many of Jeauneau's articles on this ninth-century figure appeared in his Eriugenan Studies (1987), which in 1990 received the highest distinction of the French Academie des Sciences morales et politiques, the Prix Victor Cousin.

    Jeauneau is currently publishing an edition of Eriugena's works, part of which survive in the author's original manuscript copy.

    Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo

    Mengaldo, the most distinguished Italian literary critic of his generation, will receive the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He is professor of the history of the Italian language at the University of Padua.

    Mengaldo's work focuses on medieval, early Renaissance and 19th- and 20th-century literature. Among the texts he has edited are the collected verse of 15th-century poet Matteo Maria Boiardo and Dante Alighieri's De vulgari eloquentia, both of which are considered models of textual criticism.

    The major focus of his work has been on the modern period, and his three-volume work La tradizione del Novecento is considered the best and most comprehensive study of 20th-century Italian poetry.

    Mengaldo helped define the modern canon of Italian poetry by publishing an anthology in the 1970s that included several dialectical poets. Although highly controversial at the time, his version of the canon is now universally accepted, and his understanding of the relationship of dialect literature to standard Italian literature has won general consensus.

    Mengaldo, a faculty member at the University of Padua since 1974, was recently awarded the coveted Biagio Marin Prize for his career's work in literary studies.

    Emily Sue Savage-Rumbaugh

    Savage-Rumbaugh, a world-renowned leader in research on language competence and the cognitive capacities of bonobos, chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates, will receive the Doctor of Science degree. She is professor of biology and psychology at Georgia State University.

    Savage-Rumbaugh has demonstrated that through early-rearing experiences, bonobos and chimpanzees can comprehend spoken English and simple grammar. Her work has greatly clarified what great apes understand and how they employ symbols to accomplish goals.

    Most recently, she began field studies of naturalistic bonobo communication and is leading efforts to conserve bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo through education of local people and the promotion of scientific research.

    Savage-Rumbaugh is the author of Ape Language: From Conditioned Response to Symbol (1986), Kanzi: A Most Improbable Ape (1993) and co-author of Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind (1994). She has also produced a number of documentaries and films dealing with the language of the apes.

    She taught at Emory University from 1977 until 1992, and has held her faculty appointment at Georgia State since 1987.

    Carl Wieman

    Wieman, considered to be one of the premier physicists of his generation, will receive the Doctor of Science degree. He is professor of physics and a fellow of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Wieman has achieved perhaps the two most important successes in atomic physics during the past two decades.

    The first was the measurement of parity violation in atomic systems. The measurement was determined through a series of experiments so precise that they resulted in important constraints on the Standard Model of particle physics.

    More recently, Wieman and his research group were the first to achieve a goal long sought by many physicists -- to produce a Bose-Einstein condensate, a new state of matter. Their experimental tour de force in 1995 has opened up a new field of research that is now being actively pursued. The consequences of this achievement for coherent atomic physics is likely to be as profound as was the discovery of the laser for coherent light.

    Wieman has been on the faculty at the University of Colorado since 1984.

    Reinhard Zimmermann

    Zimmermann, a master scholar and teacher of the civil law, will receive the Doctor of Laws degree.

    Professor of civil law, Roman law, and historical comparative law at University of Regensburg, Zimmermann is considered one of the leading scholars of Roman law and comparative legal history.

    In a stream of books and articles, and most prominently in The Law of Obligations: Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition, he has explored and explained the importance of Roman law in the development of the Western legal tradition. Together with the canon law, Roman law provided the common basis for legal education in universities throughout Europe from the 12th to the 19th centuries. It has even helped to shape the English and American legal systems.

    The power of the civilian legal tradition also has major implications as European nations move toward unity. Zimmermann is the leader among scholars who are urging for unification on the basis of a shared legal culture, rather than a set of bureaucratic directives.

    Zimmermann was the Max Rheinstein Visiting Professor at the Law School in 1993.