[To Gazette No. 4517 (25 June 1999) To Gazette Home Page ]
Honorandorum agmen ducit, ut par est, vir tanta auctoritate praeditus ut secum sanctissimam iuris publici dignitatem et amplitudinem adferre videatur. in Lithuania natus mox Hierosolymam migravit, ubi iuris civilis scientiae tam praeclaro successu incubuit ut cum vix e scholis evasisset iam cathedram obtineret, discipulos institueret. virum summos apud homines academicos honores tam veloci cursu consecutum mirabantur universi; ipse maiora spectabat, vitam umbratilem deseruit, in aciem forensem vitamque publicam descendit. hic quoque amplissimos honores brevissimo tempore adeptus fisci advocatus evasit, in causis difficillimis eos adiuvabat qui summam rerum administrabant. audivistis ingenium viri rapidum, quo fretus praeter advocatorum ceterorum consuetudinem interrogationibus repentinis et eisdem gravissimis solebat haud minore auctoritate ex tempore respondere quam ceteri post moras diuturnas. quod quo minus admiremini, nomen suum hic duxit a fulmine. permultas iuris provincias peragratus, nam omnis Minervae homo est, nullam fere iurisprudentiae partem intactam et inornatam reliquit; quin Universitates complures visitavit, scholas et acroases habuit, commentarios locupletissimos edidit. patriae suae multifariam praesto est, quem gravissimis illis colloquiis quae in Castris Davidicis fiebant, cum de Orientis finibus decernebatur, non tantum interfuisse verum rem magna e parte peregisse cognovimus. in iudiciis sententias longiores conscripsit quibus iudicum libertatem defendit, iudiciorum potestatem ulterius promovere studuit, ipsos rei publicae rectores iudicibus iurique civili rationem reddere coegit. obscurum non est hunc, qui ne in re divina quidem inveterata privilegia, si e re publica est, nefas habet oppugnare, cum hominibus summo loco positis interdum certamen habuisse, saepe excessisse victorem. civium iura contra potentiorum impotentiam tutatus adeo quorundam inimicitias movit ut minas subierit, custodia et militibus saepiatur.
Praesento patriae suae iudiciarium summum, iuris propagnaculum firmissimum, libertatis assertorem constantissimum, Aharon Barak, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Iure Civili.
I present a staunch defender of the rule of law and an unwavering partisan of liberty, Aharon Barak, President of the Supreme Court of Israel, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law.
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Cum plurimi sint hodie in Universitatibus ei qui carmina fabulas historias commenticias interpretentur, tum multo pauciores occurrunt qui umquam ipsi quicquam tale genuerunt; quo fit ut haec quam produco rara avis sit ideoque vel acceptior hominibus Musarum quidem privignis, artis autem criticae atque censurae peritissimis. quid de huius educatione verba faciam, cum ipsa tam lepide descripserit ut ludi magistram integerrima aetate florentem litteratissima quaeque tamquam suam agnoscat? mox bello saeviente ad secretiora patriae consilia admissa id genus rumorum apud hostes disserebat quod nigrum appellatur; iucundiorem disciplinam vix inveneritis qua formetur fabularum poetria. mox ad poeticam se contulit, et quidem non solum ipsa carmina exquisita pangebat verum etiam poetarum collegio praesidebat, recitationes instruebat, genus irritabile vatum aliquamdiu patiebatur; quos in libro quem de vita sua scripsit festive faceteque depinxit. mox ad fabulas conversa duas res quae plerumque int er se repugnant ita coniungit ut consociari sua sponte videantur: hinc accuratissimam vitae cotidianae imitationem, qua hominum operariorum, virginum tenuiorum, caelibum nummatiorum, et verba et sententias exquisito penicillo effingit; hinc aliquid maius atque divinius, quo numinis sive providentia sive interdum malevolentia significari videtur; huius enim ingenio triste aliquid, ne tetricum dicam, inesse manifestum est. quid? nonne apud Vellicopernenses virum introduxit qui secum auram Tartaream contulit, tranquillas incolarum vitas dolis et malignitate turbavit? nuntiorum magistra est sollertissima, vocis et vivae et mortuae interpres callidissima, quae alios nobis exhibeat cum mortuorum manibus colloqui nitentes, alios voces nescio quas audientes, quibus oboedire conentur; invitis denique senum anicularumque auribus iterum atque iterum molestissimum istud finxit ab Aio Locutio quodam insusurratum, Memento te esse mortalem. sed vereor ne longum sit si omnia huius aut opera percurrere coner, cum permulta scribendi genera ornarit, aut praemia atque honores quibus merito est honestata.
Praesento historiarum commenticiarum magistram perfectissimam, vitae humanae interpretem sagacissimam, Muriel Spark, Excellentissimi Ordinis Imperi Britannici Dominam Commendatricem, Litterarum Commendatricem, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.
I present a perfect practitioner of the novel and a profound interpreter of life, Dame Muriel Spark, DBE, C.Lit., for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.
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Liceat mihi hunc quem produco Graece definire [en men tois praktikois theoretikotaton, en de tois theoretikois praktikotaton], quem in philosophorum scholis eruditum philosophiaeque studiosum mox rapuit patriai tempus iniquum: vir enim libertati deditissimus se statim cum illis coniunxit qui servituti inhumanissimae quae tum grassabatur totis viribus resistebant, inter quos primarium locum consecutus ante viris militaribus quam academicis innotuit, ante tribunus militum evasit quam philosophiae professor. libet meminisse hunc in Nemausi urbis moenibus suorum erga Britannos benevolentiam invitis hostibus inscripsisse. cedunt tandem arma togae, reditur ad studia humanitatis, incipit hic exemplaria Graeca
Praesento Graeciae interpretem praeclarissimum, morum sacrorum poetarum indagatorem oculatissimum, praedicatorem eloquentissimum, Iohannem Petrum Vernant, amplissimis apud suos honoribus honestatum, Academiae Britannicae nec non plurimis ubique Academiis adscriptum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.
I present Jean-Pierre Vernant, an outstanding interpreter of the Greeks, most perceptive in his research and most eloquent in explaining their religion, poetry, and society, holder of the highest honours in his own country, Fellow of the British Academy and of many other Academies throughout the world, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.
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Quod studium homini proprium esse debet? quod aliud, poetae si credimus eloquentissimo, pontificali cognomine insigni, quam hominis ipsius natura? quam definitionem inhumano magis sensu detorsit alter poeta: nil esse in vita nisi genituram, coitionem, obitum. cuius sententiae acerbitatem hic quem produco magnopere exstinxit. maiorum enim nostrorum dies natales, nuptiales, fatales, in libros linteos relatos inque decies mille parochiarum tabulariis servatos, ita perlegit excussit explicavit ut fructum vel maximum perceperit, perceptum ceteris impertierit. non deerant quidam qui morosum istud genus annalium, exilem nimis materiam esse clamarent; quibus hic responsum dedit ad persuadendum aptissimum, sicut apud prophetam Ezechielem verba Domini legimus, qui cum rogarit, fili hominis, putasne vivent ossa ista? tunc ipse respondet, Ossa arida, ecce ego intromittam in vos spiritum, et vivetis. permulta sunt quae ex aridis illis monumentis solet eruere. huius enim opera intellegimus quot annos natae mulieres nupserint, quae res cum admirabile sit quantum diversis temporibus discreparit, tum maximi momenti est et ad fingendos societatis cuiusvis mores et ad civium multitudinem augendam minuendam gubernandam; nec non quot pueros quibus intervallis pepererint, quatenusque certis temporibus mulierum fecunditas frenata sit atque compressa. itaque fere cum Martiale poeta gloriari possit, Homines pagina nostra sapit. sed quid non ipsius verbis utar, idcirco se tam vehementer istius modi studiis delectari, quod plurimum valeant in maiorum vita societate moribus intelligendis? quaestiones spinosas acute dividit, lucide exponit, descriptionibus et imaginibus inlustrat, cum idem monuerit istius generis tabulis subdolum aliquid inesse, quod rebus ipsis falsam quandam simplicitatis speciem imposuisse videantur. tempus me deficiat si coner exponere quantum hic consecutus sit in explicanda ingenti illa rerum conversione qua a ligni usu ad metalla, a manuum opera ad machinas officinasque progressi sumus. hoc tantum dico: si quis tetricae oeconomicorum scientiae expers est, mecum delectabitur cum apud hunc scriptum invenerit, viros oeconomos primarios scilicet toto caelo erravisse in eis quae praedixissent.
Praesento virum de humani generis scientia optime meritum, annalium scriptorem praeclarissimum, societatis explicatorem ingeniosissimum, Antonium Wrigley, Equitem Auratum, Academiae Britannicae Praesidem, Collegi de Harris Manchester Visitatorem, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.
I present a man who has made a signal contribution to our understanding of the human race, a very distinguished historian, most resourceful in his account of society, Sir Tony Wrigley, President of the British Academy, Visitor of Harris Manchester College, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.
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Tritissimum est adagium, Unum quemque nostrum id esse quod comedat; sed cum pueri dicaciores Es quod es decantent, tum si quis nugas miserit, serio quaesiverit qua tandem ratione id quod manducatur in membrorum vim inque corporis impetum abire soleat, is in ipsius vitae arcana progredi conatus adeo difficultatibus vel maximis impedietur ut necesse sit saepe caput scabat, saepe stilum vertat: cui quaestionum generi hic iamdudum incubuit, plurimum contulit, magna ex parte solutionem atque enodationem excogitavit. inter nos diu versabatur plurimarum artium adulescens, qui pila peritissime, folliculo felicissime luserit, aequalium camerae communi praesederit, in saltando autem Saliorum magister rite appellatus morem vetustiorem revocarit, iuniores docuerit, per oppida vicina tam luculento successu instituerit ut hodie quoque rustici numerum ictumque servent. nec minus in arte scaenica antiquissima profecit, qui quotannis ludiorum magister apud Wheatlienses gregem suum produxerit. quem cum audieritis tot negotiis operam dedisse, paene incredibile fortasse videbitur eundem chemiae deditissimum fuisse, ceteris studiosis excelluisse, mox inter Eduardi Abraham, viri honoratissimi, discipulos acceptum esse. ad difficilioris notae quaestiones provectus ea prima animantium elementa quae propter praestantiam pq<Phi> s' eÁmai dicuntur aggressus est, quorum et compages et effectus non nisi difficillime intellegitur. in ipsius corporis humani cellulis structurae quaedam reperiuntur quae ita filorum grana percurrentium speciem praebent ut a viris doctis, linguae Graecae scilicet peritissimis, iure mitochondria vocentur. haec corpuscula aliquo modo primas in cibo concoquendo partes agere manifestum est; ratio latet, de singulis homines biochemici certant, et adhuc sub iudice lis est; hic quem produco et plurimum iam profecit et cum discipulis suis, nam scholae illustrissimae nuper factus est Praeses, si quid adhuc obscurum est mox enodabit. sed vel notabiliora sunt quae detexit hic et adhuc detegit in synthasi, sic enim ei appellant qui extra omnes et scientiae et linguae Latinae cancellos egrediantur, qua demum in- tellecta fas erit discere quo modo cibus in motus et agitationem corporis evadat.
Praesento corporis humani exploratorem sollertissimum, explicatorem eloquentissimum, Iohannem Walker, Equitem Auratum, Societatis Regiae Sodalem, Praemio Nobeliano nobilitatum, Collegi Beatae Cath- erinae Socium honoris causa adlectum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Scientia.
I present Sir John Walker, FRS, Nobel Prizeman, Honorary Fellow of St Catherine's College, a profound enquirer into the structure of the body and a gifted expounder of his findings, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
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Neminem, credo, in hac hominum litteratissimorum frequentia reppereris quin mecum hanc formulam conceptis verbis concinere possit: Nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duas eiusdem nominis fas esse dividere. Haud ita pridem res aliter se habebat, nos plerique Ciceroni ipsi adsensi eos dixissemus qui mathematici vocentur non solum recondita in arte et multiplici subtilique sed etiam in magna rerum obscuritate versari; sed hodie et Pythagorae arcana vulgi aures titillant, et homines devia illa mathematicorum latibula visitant ita indocti ut nihilominus curiositate ducantur. itaque quisquis famam sibi adpetit huius quem produco vitam contemplatus ne eruditum geometrarum pulverem aspernetur. hic enim cum diu in intimis rei algebraicae medullis habitarit, tam primum nobiscum quam postea apud Cantabrigienses et postremo apud Princetonienses, tam insignem denique consecutus est gloriam ut etiam ab insciis neque isti studiorum generi adscriptis agnoscatur. qui usque a primis aeta tis suae annis austera numerorum scientia delectatus notissimum illud Petri Fermati theorema, a tot tamque nobilibus mathematicis CCC ferme annos frustra temptatum, sibi proposuit probandum; quod quidem firmata iam aetate post alia egregia facinora rationibus exquisitissimis summoque acuminis firmamento usus tandem firmissime elaboravit. longum sit si spinosissimas istius incepti difficultates, ingeniosissima huius artificia, singillatim percensere coner, praesertim cum L tantum homines esse dicantur qui quantum hic perfecerit animo recte aestimare possint, quorum in numero me non esse confiteor atque concedo. erant homines quibus hic nimis audax videbatur, qui tantae claritudinis problema solus aggrederetur; erat tempus quo ipse paene desperarat, cum theorema illud, devictum iam, ut videbatur, atque superatum, tamen tamquam Hydra illa Lernaea insperatas difficultates subito protulit atque produxit. sed res bene vortit: vicit tandem vivida vis animi, invenit Sphinx Oedipodem suum, cui ita plauserunt universi mathematici ut dolerent quidam sibi ademptas esse haud ingratas frustra ratiocinandi molestias, solutum denique esse venerabile istud aenigma.
Praesento temporum nostrorum Archimeden, numerorum magistrum singularem, theorematis ultimi enodatorem incomparabilem, Andream Wiles, Societatis Regiae Sodalem, Collegi Mertonensis Socium honoris causa ad scitum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Scientia.
I present the Archimedes of our time, the outstanding master of numbers, the incomparable unriddler of the Last Theorem, Professor Andrew Wiles, FRS, Honorary Fellow of Merton College, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
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Honorandorum agmen claudit vir cum in hoc theatro tum in plurimis aliis acceptissimus, qui argutos tubarum clangores, canoros organi hydraulici novi sonos, ad iudicium severum aurium scilicet perpurgatarum vocabit. adulescens admodum gloriam adeptus est repentinam, barbam enim vix deposuerat vir qui capillos numquam deposuit, immo crepitaculo ludere vix desierat, cum in nobili hominum musicorum certamine seniores devicit, palmam meruit, famae fundamenta iecit praeclarae quae continuo et crevit et crescit. multa sunt quae in eo inesse debent qui homines symphoniacos velit gubernare, quae cum omnia percensere non possim hoc saltem adfirmo: ad summos honores non accedet nisi duas res inter se plerumque repugnantes coniunxerit, gratiam, dico, et imperium, qui universum istum fidium fistularum tubarum tympanorum sistrorum sambucarum cornuum cymbalorum crepitaculorum concentum imperio regat unus aequo. his accedit in hoc quem produco quod populi sensum ita aestimare callet ut multitudinem imperitam atque homines a Musis remotissimos ad summa artis musicae opera auscultanda invitet, invitatos detineat atque devinciat. vehementer enim veteri proverbio Graeco adsentitur, musicae occultae nullum esse respectum. vix credibile est hodie fuisse quoddam tempus nec multos abhinc annos cum inficetas hominum Cornoviorum mentes nihil exquisitius, nihil subtilius delectare credebatur quam scurrae nesciocuius tritissima dicacitas; quos nunc symphoniacorum gregem alere nulli in toto orbe secundum, tanta frequentia in Odeon concurrere ut locus in subselliis nullus relinquatur, hodiernorum musicorum operibus atque illis etiam quae difficiliora esse creduntur adlici teneri delectari, huius opera consilio labore maximo effectum est. ita enim hic rem gerit ut et peritissimum quemque summo gaudio adficiat et idem tirones trahat excitet devinctos habeat. ne amplissimo quidem atrio contineri potest huius immensa vis, qui ne hoc quidem contentus, quod plures simul symphoniacos direxit quam ante eum quisquam, ita acroases de huius saeculi musicis conscriptas habuit ut universos simul cives, totius mundi populum adloqui videretur.
Praesento Orphea alterum, civium suorum educatorem mellitissimum, Simonem Rattle, Equitem Auratum, Excellentissimi Ordinis Imperi Britannici Commendatorem, Collegi Beatae Annae Socium honoris causa adlectum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Musica.
I present a second Orpheus, a man who combines instruction with delight, Sir Simon Rattle, CBE, Honorary Fellow of St. Anne's College, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Music.
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The Orator, beginning the Creweian Oration, reflects uneasily that, for an audience sitting in this gorgeous yet austere theatre, it will contain two good moments. The first is now, when they see that at least this bit will be in English. The second comes near the end, when the audience sense that they will soon be released from those historic seats, designed by craftsmen in the baroque period, to ensure that no human leg, whether long or short, and no human bottom, whether large or small, should sit on them with comfort. He comforts himself that at least his audience will not be asleep.
Another academic year slinks exhausted away; another set of events calls for oratorical record, that wax rhetorical. And again the Orator is checked by a sobering reflection. His news is already known to most of his audience. The vagaries of the Funding Councils, the comings and goings of Heads of House: all this is already familiar. Rarely does the Creweian contain a bombshell. Yet still the Oration comes purring up at the tail of the proceedings, like a Daimler at the back of a funeral cortège, to lend to the whole business, with its silent tyres, glossy paintwork, and hint of effortless power held in reserve, a touch of lugubrious distinction.
Above all, it commemorates our benefactors; and we do not all know about the benefactions received this year. To record them is our ancient custom and also a present pleasure, even in a year in which our research income from all sources has been no less than £114,000,000. That sounds like a lot, and it is a great achievement, of which all of us can be proud, and on which some of us especially are to be congratulated. But it is gravely disappointing that next year's grant from HEFCE will be increased by only 2.8 per cent. The Secretary to the Chest has commented that it `remains inadequate ... A long-term solution to the financial pressures facing us seems as elusive as ever'.
Our need of our benefactors was never greater. Their gifts are precious to us and vital to the success of the University. For example, we have now been able to establish a fund of £4,500,000 for graduate scholarships: a vital resource, if we are to be able to attract and retain the best graduate students. It was a pleasure that the meeting of the Chancellor's Court of Benefactors was well attended again this year, and that four new members were admitted. It was a smaller, more subversive pleasure, on that occasion, when the photographer, preparing to take the group picture, took advantage of his absolute power by telling both the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor peremptorily to tuck in their too conspicuous feet.
Special mention this year must go to the Said Business School. In ancient days, while technology and the arts were still friends, we read that the hero Amphion built the walls of Thebes by playing the lyre so sweetly that his music made the stones form themselves into the walls of the city. So, too, when Troy was built, says Milton, under music's influence `Ilion, like a mist, rose into towers'. Nowadays construction work is not quite like that; but on its site near the Station the Business School's new building is struggling into existence. It has received a very generous gift from Dr Michael Peagram. The Centre has also received a splendid benefaction from Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, for the School's library, to be named after the donor. The words `It's on the shelf at Sainsbury's' will take on a new meaning.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has made a magnificent donation to Kellogg College for lifelong learning. The Rothermere American Institute records a splendid gift from the Daily Mail and General Holdings, Ltd., and a handsome donation, for its Harmsworth Lecturership in American Arts and Letters, from the Esmond Harmsworth 1997 Charitable Foundation. The Ashmolean has been enabled by a munificent gift from Dr May Hamilton Beattie to endow a fellowship in carpet studies. The Drue Heinz Trust has given very generously to the new graduate centre at Hertford College and the Vice-Chancellor's Fund. The HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust Martin Wills Fund has made a very generous donation towards the establishment of a Chair in Old Age Psychiatry; while the Andrew Mellon Foundation has contributed handsomely to the Digital Collections Scoping Study at Oxford and to the Refugee Studies Programme, and the Norman Collisson Foundation has made a generous donation to the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA).
Notable gifts have also been received from the Jesse and Thomas Tam Charitable Foundation, towards the initial phase of the Chinese Centre for teaching Chinese as a foreign language; from Mr Douglas Johnson, to establish the Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard Lecture Fund; and from Mr John W. Adams, for a research fellowship in political economy at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. We place on record our gratitude to these our benefactors, and to all the others whose names are listed in the programme of this ceremony. Thank you all!
A few particular items can be singled out. The Ashmolean is grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for help in acquiring the drawing by Ingres of Charles Cockerell, the architect of the Museum; and to the National Art Collections Fund for the acquisition of a number of works of art, notably the charming terracotta sculpture by Rysbrack of Edward Salter, of Christ Church, at the age of six. The Pitt Rivers reports a generous gift from Mrs Turvey for the Native American Collection. The Museum of the History of Science has grants to report from the PRISM Fund, for the purchase of an eighteenth-century theodolite and of a stereoscopic camera and viewer, from about 1900; all French; not too French, one hopes.
Every year the Orator turns for some flavoursome tit-bit to the Bate Collection of old instruments, and seldom in vain. This year they report the gift of a collection of medieval and Renaissance reproduction instruments from the Oxfordshire Museums Service, for use by students and visitors. The collection includes: a crumhorn, a gemshorn, a cornettojust one cornettoa dulzaine, a psaltery, a rauschpfeife, a rebec, andquite separate from all these, and not to be confused with thema racket. A racket, it must be said, which can hardly rival that created with his record breaking orchestra by Sir Simon Rattle.
Also new, also musical, and also capable of a racket, is that striking instance of organ transplant, the electronic digital instrument which has delighted us today. It was inaugurated at a splendid concert, given by Mr Simon Preston and the University Orchestra on 29 May: in a gesture of impeccable good taste, the Orator's birthday. It possesses three specificationsEnglish cathedral, English eighteenth century, French Romantic; and that is only so far: at least one, perhaps two, are still to be added, of a German kind. The Yves Guihannec Foundation and Mr Robert Venables, QC, receive our thanks.
The struggle over the electronic organ was long and ragedstill rageswith a passion bemusing to the outsider. I remarked innocently to a member of the Music Faculty that `People say you can't tell the difference between an electronic and a pipe organ'. `Yes', he snapped, `I dare say, if you have cloth ears, you can't'. With less innocence, but no less truth, I said, `George Malcolm says he can't tell the difference'. `Well', replied the man of melody, `that's true, of course, you can't tell the difference. But that's not the point. An electronic organ isn't sincere!' Now how, one muses, are we to detect insincerity in a machine, or (for that matter) sincerity? Do we take a hint from Wittgenstein and watch it carefully, as it plays Bach, to see if it is simultaneously winking at members of the opposite sex (or at alternative specifications), or humming a Beatles hit, perhaps, somewhere in the vox humana? Would it prefer to be a theatre organ and play Tea for Two and I do like to be beside the Seaside? The problem is metaphysical, or worse, and some doubters are still slow to be converted; but most listeners, I think, felt keen pleasure.
I am leaving the Bodleian Library this year to the Professor of Poetry. And here I must say a word about our departing Professor, James Fenton. This is not the place to praise his poetry, with its wide range, from the very moving to the very witty; but I must say a word about his contribution to the University while in the Chair. He has been accessible to the young, and to large and enthusiastic audiences he has given lectures of great distinction, which read equally well on the printed page. We thank him warmly, as he goes off into the evening of his days: so young, and already an Emeritus Professor; like Heads of House, they get younger every year.
We no longer list new professors, now that distinction is so rife among us and so lavishly recognised, but mention must be made of his successor, Mr Paul Muldoon, originally from Belfast, who was elected unopposed. What a relief, in a year in which the publishing of poetry unleashed storms of controversial vitriol, and the nomination of the Poet Laureate was greeted with some startlingly ill-natured comments. He must surely be a very nice man.
Among interesting events, pride of place this year goes to the visit of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to University College in May, to mark its 750th anniversary. The occasion had at least two notable features. One was the simultaneous presence of the Visitor of the college, in the person of the monarch, and, in the person of the Duke, of the Chancellor of that other University, the one over there, in the flat lands, where the coypu roam among the sugar beet.
The other, a puzzle for the chronologically minded, is that at the end of the twentieth century the college is 250 years younger than it was in the nineteenth, when in the fine flush of Victorian medievalism it celebrated its thousandth birthday, not without fulsome invocations of King Alfred; cakes, no doubt, with a thousand candles, were baked and burned in the college kitchens. Perhaps relativity is in some way at the root of this numerical paradox; Professor Wiles, I expect, could explain it. To redress an historical balance, Harris Manchester College this year celebrated Oliver Cromwell, himself a Chancellor of the University; and you, Sir, spoke eloquently about his Calvinism, or muscular Christianitywhich sounds pretty Victorian, too.
Lectures were given by some other grand people. The Prime Minister spoke about Lord Beveridge and the welfare state. The Head of MI6 spoke of the over-riding need for Secret Services to be open. For her own part, she added, she had found it necessary, because of obsessive media interest, to go back underground. Professor Amartya Sen, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, gave the Romanes Lecture, on the importance of universally valid standards of justice. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, lectured on the future of the common law. And Dame Diana Rigg, as Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor, lectured on the Theatre and that necessary evil, the critics; though surely in her case even the sternest critics must do as the holy priests did with Cleopatra, and bless her when she is Riggish. And now we are to have also a Visiting Chair in Opera Studies, to be named after Mrs Robin Hambro, who has endowed it. We look forward to instruction combined with delight.
It was a matter of general sadness that his late Majesty King Hussein of Jordan was not able to come for the honorary degree which was to be conferred on him. President Vàclav Havel, of the Czech Republic, did come, to receive the honorary degree which we had voted him, but which he was too ill to receive, last year. His sprightly appearance was a striking tribute to the benefits of a shrewd remarriage. He gave an eloquent speech on the role of the intellectual in politics. Descending one step, but still remaining at a Presidential levelthis speech broadens down, like the common law, from President to Presidentsin November the Boss Men of Harvard and of Yale, both Oxford graduates, came and were similarly honoured. Ya ya boom!
This year there has been the great debate on the governance of the University. Or rather: there has been a great debate-shaped void, where it did not take place. In Michaelmas Term the amended proposals were placed before us. To expound them fully would need (in the phrase of Max Beerbohm) a far less brilliant pen than mine. Both Hebdomadal Council and the General Board will recede into history, replaced by one super body (the Charles Atlas Committee?). The rest of us, whose bodies are less super, will be divided into five academic divisions, each with a full-time head. Academic services such as libraries and museums are to be put under a new Pro-Vice-Chancellor, presiding over `a new tier of over-arching committees': a visual image whose sombre impressiveness suggests the Prisons of Piranesi, or the opium dreams of De Quincey. And, finally, future Vice-Chancellors are to be appointed for seven years. Seven thin years, or seven fat years? It would be a very sanguine Joseph, I fear, who would predict the latter.
I hope our new model Vice-Chancellors will not lose something which at present strikingly separates them, along with the Vice-Chancellors of Cambridge, from the executive heads of so many British universities. We have usually felt confident that our Vice-Chancellor was on our side, one of us, one of the good guys. That is a great privilege. It is not, alas, what one usually senses in other Universities, if the conversation turns to their Vice- Chancellors; and it certainly is not what most of us feel about the record, over the last fifteen years, of the CVCP. I take my hat off to our Vice- Chancellor; to the CVCP, two hats on! May we not lose, in the drive for a modern notion of efficiency, something important to the soul of our institution.
On the whole, the University seems to agree with the proposals. Hearty or principled dissent was barely expressed; whether or not it is felt. One observed a reluctance to talk about the business at all. Some detect here the general discouragement that stalks an academic profession which feels under-funded, under-paid, over-scrutinised, and over-directed. What use to object to changes, or to discuss them, when in any case changes will be forced upon us? Others think that what prevailed was a sense of relief: things might have been much worse. But surely we can and should rephrase what has just been said so grumpily in a less ungenerous tone. We must feel grateful to the wisdom and humanity of the Vice-Chancellor and his working party, building on the foundations well laid by the North Commission, for achieving a result which has been so little divisive, where we might easily have had bitter dissension.
A gratifyingly large number of public honours have come this year to members of the University. In the New Year Honours list there were knighthoods for Professor John Krebs, Royal Society Professor, for services to behavioural ecology; for Professor Michael Dummett, Emeritus Professor of Logic, for services to philosophy and to racial justice; and for Mr Victor Blank, of the Chancellor's Court of Benefactors, a leading volunteer with the Campaign for Oxford. In the Birthday Honours there were knighthoods for Professor Keith O'Nions, Professor of the Physics and Chemistry of Metals; Professor Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology; and Professor Bernard Williams, Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy. Professor Geoffrey Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Turkish, has received a CMG; and CBEs have been conferred upon Mrs Iona Opie, of the famous Opie Collection, now in the Bodleian, on Professor John Bayley, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, and on Professo r Averil Cameron, Warden of Keble. Mr James Durcan, Principal of Ruskin, has received the OBE, as has Mr Tom Hassall, Emeritus Fellow of Green College; and Mr Robert Morris, Head Scout of University College, has received the MBE. Hearty congratulations to all of them; may they not find, as one newly minted knight ruefully confided, that everything now cost him more.
Every year we watch to see whether the University will score more elections to the Royal Society or to the British Academy. Last year the arts had the edge; this year was a good year for the scientists. There were nine elections from our number to the Royal Society: Professor Frances Ashcroft, Professor Lorna Casselton, Professor John Clegg, Professor David Cockayne, Dr Philip England, Dr John Ockendon, Professor John Pethica, Professor Joseph Silk, and Sir Peter Williams. The British Academy, for its part, elected seven of us: Dr Paul Brand, Professor Paul Craig, Dr Paul Harris, Professor Alan Knight, Dr David Marquand, Professor Robert Parker, and Professor John Vickers; while Mrs Iona Opie, whom we think of as virtually one of us, was elected to a Senior Fellowship.
Turning to Heads of House, we find some changes to report. There is to be a new Provost of Queen's: Sir Alan Budd, formerly Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury and Head of the Government Economic Service, succeeds Dr Geoffrey Marshall, one of the few Heads who can claim to have trained and played with Sir Stanley Matthews. The new Principal of St Edmund Hall is Professor Michael Mingos, Professor of Chemistry at Imperial College, London, and before that for sixteen years Fellow of Keble. Lord Plant is to leave his position as Master of St Catherine's and return to expounding Hegel, combining the tranquillity of a research chair at Southampton University with the serenity of the House of Lords. There is to be a new Warden of Rhodes House: Dr John Rowett, Fellow of Brasenose and historian of the twentieth century, succeeds Sir Anthony Kenny. Sir Anthony, who was Master of Balliol before moving on to browse the lusher pastures of South Parks Road, is also a prolific philosopher and n o less active as a man of affairs; he earns our warm thanks by taking on the leadership of the Campaign for Oxford.
Let us turn to the junior members, who loom so large in our working lives, but who have been squeezed out of this ceremony. Last year I listed some of the more picturesquely titled University Prizes on offer. This year, let us glance at some of their other doings. I shall not linger on the demonstrations which tried to heckle the Vice-Chancellor, because Parliament had voted to impose tuition fees; and which did so bearing banners inscribed with indecent languageskilfully calculated, when the demo was shown that evening on television, to win the support of the voters.
Rather, let me mention a cross-Channel swim by a relay of six swimmers, a race against Cambridge, in support of the University swimming pool, that lustrous mirage which has so long glittered before our eyes as we straggle through the desert of land-bound existence. Those who are once bitten by the desire for it go through life forever yearning and dissatisfied, like men who have been kissed in their dreams by goddesses; and I have predicted that Orators will be pining for it, long after my voice is silent. But now the Fund has raised more than a million pounds, including £100,000 from Mr Michael McCafferty, sometime Rhodes Scholar and Captain of the University Swimming Team; and the Rhodes Trust has offered £1.2 million as a challenge gift. Our congratulations to Lady Kenny, Chairman of the Committee. Only £1.35 million remains to be raised. The cross-Channel race, one records with deep satisfaction, was a dead heat, in nine hours and twenty-five minutes. Almost as exhausting was the exploit of a Merton four, who in support of their College Boat Club rowed the whole of the navigable non-tidal length of the Thames. The Boat Race, I observe, has attracted badly needed support of £2,500,000, over six years, from Aberdeen Asset Management.
A hundred years of University Rugby at Iffley Road were celebrated by a memorable match against former players. The Varsity Match was narrowly lost at Twickenham; but it has been a triumphant year for the women's Rugger team, and a good one (when the weather permitted) for the men's Cricket Eleven. A junior member won the UK hill-climb cycle championship; recalling, by contrast, the remark of Sir Maurice Bowra about Beaumont Street: `A stiff climb...' The new high-tech hockey pitch came into use, a top class one, on which the grandest teams are queuing up to play. There has been an extensive review of Oxford sport, which has made no less than seventy-five recommendations: we are to become a national centre of cricketing excellence. Let nobody whisper subversively about the home of lost causes.
Nor are we a mere Sparta, athletic but alien to the Muses. Music is everywhere, and we are constantly delighted by the Bach Choir, Schola Cantorum, and the Oxford Chamber Choir; by the University Orchestra; by the musical life of the college chapels and the many college societies, choirs, instrumental groups. The Oxford University Jazz Orchestra this year won the BBC's Big Band Award. The theatre is no less lively. I pick a few titles, almost at random, to give a faint idea of the richness on offer. We could have seen an Othello; and `Tis Pity She's a Whore; and Hamlet, set in the corporate world of the eighties. Comus was performed in Mansfield chapel, and Iphigenia in Aulis in the Playhouse, in Greek. Those whose preference is gloomy could go to Becket's Endgame, while the Gilbert and Sullivan Society put on Iolanthe and The Gondoliers. Here we were acting The Winslow Boy, and there Kafka's In the Penal Colony; here Jesus Christ Superstar, and there a dramatisation of Mein Kampf; here Twelve Angry Men, and there An Evening with Rudyard Kipling (also, when you come to think of it, rather an angry man).
So much for the young. Next year we may glance at the strange world of their clubs and societies. Now for a few of the myriad exotic and interesting activities of their seniors. A team of Oxford scientists is at work making artificial diamonds; to coat machine tool cutting bits, or so they say. It has been an outstanding year for scientific games with birds. The Computing Laboratory has created a robot, which resembles a hat-box on wheels, and which can herd ducks. Surely we have a satirical picture of the Teaching Quality Assessment. A team of scientists is at work reconstructing the appearance of the dodo: a much maligned bird, it was related to the pigeon and really quite slim. Another team flew on paragliders to accompany vultures on the wing. The vultures proved friendly and followed the lecturersregular culture vultures. Yet another lot are applying laser techniques to the teeth of elephants to find out about the water they have drunk in their lifetime. Elephants' memories, it appears, while notoriously good, are not so good that scientists can rely with confidence on their unsupported testimony.
Meanwhile, Dr Stephen Stokes has found the oldest skeleton of a modern human in Africa; Professor Martin Biddle has discovered and studied the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem; and a conference in Oxford aimed to recreate the aftermath of the big bang and so simulate the creation of the universe. Truly alarming possibilities open up. Perhaps next time they may actually succeed, and a second universe may come into existence. Then what? As Bertie Wooster so sagely observed of the prospect, then in the future, of splitting the atom: It may be all right, or it may not be all right; and if it isn't, pretty fools we shall look, when the house is blown sky-high, and we are torn limb from limb.
I return to our benefactors, this time involuntary ones: that rapidly growing class, the temporary workers and researchers, on short contracts. We used to pride ourselves that the work here was done by those properly paid to do it, and there was no large exploited class. External pressures have forced us to change all that. More and more we depend on people who have no security, who are liable to casual exploitation, to the imposition of extra burdens at short notice, to sudden changes in their teaching loads. Their lot is much harder than ours when we were starting our careers.
Even in Oxford we see positions advertised, not for a year, but for nine months. That is to say, at the end of nine months of full-time teaching, the unfortunate holder must look for other support in the long vacation, when he or she might have hoped to write and publish some research, and so have a chance of getting an academic job. The system which demands constant publication neatly prevents these people from producing it. We are exploiting some of our young, in ways which even a short time ago were unthinkable.
The pressure from the centre is unrelenting for economies, for leaving posts unfilled, for substituting short term contracts for proper appointments. So it might be surprising that for some things there is always money: for another tier of bureaucracy, another set of hurdles on the way to a research degree, another round of inspection and inquisition. We are, of course, not really surprised. As another assessment procedure creaks past, unloved and unrespected, we recall the verdict of Tacitus on the informers, the delatores, who were a prominent in Imperial Rome. A type of person, says the historian, created for the ruin of the commonwealth, and never sufficiently repressed, was now positively encouraged with rewards.
None of us believes in all that bureaucratic interference, but it will happen: we are powerless to prevent it. What we do believe in does not have to happenthe right sort of teaching, the adequate stocking of libraries, the retention in this country of first class academics. Much of that will happen only if we are helped by that noble army of benefactors, who have done so much for us, and to whom we look for still more. We have learned a sad lesson: whatever party is in power, we cannot rely on the State. I asked a bilingual colleague: `How do you say in French, "It is regarded as a defeat for the Minister for Higher Education that she has not succeeding in reducing the grant to (say) the École Normale by as much as she wanted"?' After a moment's reflection he replied, `You can't say that in French'.
I come finally to that special category of our benefactors: our dead colleagues, who worked beside us and served the University well. You will pardon me if I mention first one of my predecessors in this office, Colin Hardie, Fellow of Magdalen and Public Orator of the University: a man of wide and various learning, a great Dantean as well as a classicist of the more conventional sort, and a most eloquent Orator. We have also to remember: Michael Aris, Fellow of St Antony's; Robert Beckinsale, Fellow of University; Max Beloff, Fellow of All Souls; Alec Cairncross, Master of St Peter's; William Calder, Fellow of Queen's; Alexander Cooke, Fellow of Merton; John Cowan, Fellow of New College; Arthur Crow, Fellow of Oriel; David Daube, Fellow of All Souls; Gwynne Henton Davies, Principal of Regent's Park College; Eprime Eshag, Fellow of Wadham; Margaret Gowing, Fellow of Linacre; John Harris, Fellow of Green College; Sonia Hawkes, Fellow of St Cross; Philip Holdsworth, Master of St B enet's; Martin Lawrence, Fellow of Green College; Raymond Lucas, Fellow of Brasenose; Donald McKenzie, Fellow of Pembroke; Graham Midgley, Fellow of St Edmund Hall; Kirstie Morrison, Fellow of St Anne's; Iris Murdoch, Fellow of St Anne's; Herbert Nicholas, Fellow of New College; John O'Brien, Fellow of Pembroke; David Phillips, Fellow of Corpus Christi; Charles Smith, Fellow of Keble; Robert Torrance, Fellow of St John's.
Let us reflect on the true purposes of this great University: the creation of knowledge, its protection, and its transmission. Much of that is unglamorous and humdrum. Today we see the splendour of an ancient and famous institution, raising huge sums of money, receiving and conferring honours. There is colour; there is music; there are magnificent buildings and speeches in Latin. But the real life of the place is of course not lived here. It is lived in all those rooms in colleges, where every week tutorials are given amid the tutor's more or less disorderly books; it is lived in the laboratories, where stained tables and scarred walls may bear silent witness to the cost of pushing back the frontiers of our knowledge. There these our late colleagues worked, gave of themselves, read and taught and were the living stuff of the University. Without them, all is vanity.
Pericles of Athens remarked that mere buildings, without men in them, are nothing. At a time when the holders of power sometimes seem to forget that ancient truth, and to believe that new frameworks, new buildings, new rounds of inquisition and delation, new tiers of bureaucracy (O those over-arching committees!) will suffice for the central purposes of higher education; perhaps, indeed, that they actually are its central purposes; it is well to be reminded. It is not the hive but the workers in the hive; it is not the library but the readers in the library; it is not the laboratory but the scientists in the laboratory, who achieve whatever has value. In their lives these men and women were the life of the University; their work was its substance and its soul. May we emulate them. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
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It is the purpose of this speech to praise the benefactors of the University, and in the past it has been my custom to concentrate attention on particular benefactions to our great institutions, and to explain and celebrate their purpose. Four years ago I spoke of the projected extension at the front of the Ashmolean, long since finished and put to good use. Two years ago it was the turn of the Museum of the History of Science, work on which is still in progress. And it seemed logical to complete the series with praise for the benefactors of Duke Humfrey's Library, not least Duke Humfrey of Gloucester himself, the youngest son of Henry IV, who by 1444 had given the University no less than 281 books, prompting our predecessors to build a library above the Divinity School and to name it after him.
Forty years later, when the library was ready to receive the books, our predecessors had forgotten their resolve, and Duke Humfrey's library was never known as Duke Humfrey's Library until the nineteenth century, when the splendid collection of chained books had long since disappeared. They had remained in their library for a mere sixty-two years, until King Edward VI's visitation of Oxford, when the Visitors visited their zeal upon the benefaction, and `some of those books so taken out by the Reformers were burnt, some sold away for Robin Hood's pennyworths, either to Booksellers, or to Glovers to press their gloves, or Taylors to make measures, or to Bookbinders to cover books bound by them, and some also were kept by the Reformers for their own use.' Then the benches and desks were flogged off to Christ Church and the bare room turned over to the Faculty of Medicine, and for half a century the University of Oxford, as such, had no library at all. And if our benefactors had taken the view, as they might have and with some justification, that there was no point in throwing good money after bad, then that void at the heart of the University might have remained.
But we were rescued by pilchards. For when Thomas Bodley married a West Country widow, Ann Ball, when he formed his alliance with a pilchard factor's relict, he acquired the fortune with which he restored and endowed the library whose librarian is still known as Bodley's Librarian.
Perhaps we should be more ashamed of those times when we have looked at our plates and said: Not pilchards again! For it is precisely to that habit of coming round again, to the pilchard's amenability in the matter of turning up on the plate, that we owe our good fortune and the fame of our library.
The heirs of Duke Humfrey, the successors of Bodley, still come to our aid as the frequent pilchard did. This year we have to thank Railtrack PLC for sponsorship of the Recording Centre for the Blind at the Bodleian. Sir Robert Horton, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung made generous contributions to the Bodleian Incunabula project, as did the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Digital Collections Scoping Study. Nigel and Helen Lovett have liberally helped to establish the Acquisitions Endowment Fund for the Vere Harmsworth Library of the Rothermere American Institute. And three charitable bodies, the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, the Oxford Historical Buildings Fund, and the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust have made significant contributions to the Old Bodleian Development Project.
The first act of this Development Project has been to intervene once again in the long war between the death-watch beetle and Duke Humfrey's roof. In past decades it had been believed that a liberal dousing with an appropriate chemical would be enough to see the beetle off, but it turns out that such treatments cannot penetrate far enough into the wood to reach that part where the tiny white grubs spend ten years munching their way towards adulthood. And what a dismal adulthood it is when it comes. They give up eating and take up tapping with their thoraxes for a mate. They cannot hear each other tap: it is we who have heard them over the years, and have thought their tapping presaged a death. And it does indeed presage a deathbut it is their death, not ours, that it presages, for once they have mated they are doomed shortly to die. They tap in search of this deathly mate they cannot hear but only feel in the vibrations of the damp wood, the damp wood that has been pilchard, bread, a nd milk for them as long as they can remember. They tap at a rate of eleven pulses to the second, and when male and female recognise each other it is like two fax machines finding out that they are compatible. The signals blend. The female receives the fax, and the message says: stay exactly where you are, and keep on tapping; I am on my way; yours truly, Death. Then the female is frozen, tapping, to the spot, and the male finds her and mates with her, and it is May and it is warm enough for her to fly, and she flies among the dark rafters, waiting for parturition and death.
Damp wood is what they need, damp oak or willow, and the reason Duke Humfrey's roof was damp was not that it leaked but because its copper sheets lay too close to the rafters. If the roof could be raised a little, giving the beetles more room for their May flights, not only would the damp rafters dry out, cutting off the source of nourishment, but also ingenious light-traps could be inserted to lure the beetles to a premature death on sticky paper.
All this our benefactors have enabled us to achieve. The roof is raised, the traps are in place, the beams are drying out, while below, in Duke Humfrey, a beautiful fibre-optic system allows cool sharp light to be focused on manuscript and incunabulum. The cork floor is ready for polishing. The desks are in place again and soon the books will return from their temporary abode in the Upper Reading Room. The doors will open next month and the readers will return, and they will bring with them their lap-tops and think-pads, and, where once the chained books resisted the pilfering Cavaliers, now, at every seat, there is a socket where these modern chained books will be plugged in. And then the tapping will begin, and the flying among the rafters of academic cyberspace, and our library will talk to other libraries, and manuscript to virtual manuscript, and incunabulum to incunabula.
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