Graduate's Speech: Professor David King, Doctor of Science (DSc)
Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government and Head of the Office of Science and Technology, Professor King's honorary degree was awarded for his contribution to science. Professor King is a Fellow of the Royal Society and has been Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge since 1988. He received his honorary degree on Thursday, July 11 during the morning degree ceremony. The following is his response after the degree ceremony oration.
Chancellor, fellow graduands, ladies and gentlemen.
My first comment is that it's a little like hearing your obituary in
advance. I have indeed been privileged
throughout my career in being allowed to pursue my curiosity in one aspect of
how nature works and that is solid surfaces as you have heard.
brought me into the field at this fortunate point of time when it was a mere
dream that we would understand the atomic and electronic and molecular
properties or surfaces at the sort of level understanding that was being
developed in other areas of chemistry that Peter Atkins’s books so
And coming into
the field at that point of time meant that climbing up the ladder from the
bottom rung has been an utterly exhilarating experience.
But I have to tell you that climbing that ladder was by no means a
lonely business and so the first thing I would do is pay tribute to those
people in research groups throughout the period of time, have done the
thinking and the working that the underlay the developments that the Orator
has put before you.
people in working with them has given me really the greatest pleasure in
watching their development. That to be honest is watching the development of
the science in their hands and I think what we now see is the massive power of
computing, the massive improvement of instrumentation that means we can now
tackle problems of such complexity that we wouldn’t have dared tackle
without the degree of rigger and quantitative understanding that is now
And I see that
as the new ladder that is appearing before us today - the ladder that leads
into detailed understanding of extremely complex phenomena - and of course
this means that we’re moving in to an era when interdiscipline is going to
play a stronger and stronger role.
If I just
mention one matter of complexity that I am now dealing with, wearing this
government hat - and that is climate change. What
we need is good modelling of what is happening in terms of climate change, what
has happened over the last 50 – 1,000 years, so that we can predict what
will happen in the future and make policy decisions that will allow us to move
forward in a safe environment.
modelling that is currently being done of the whole earth - the global
modelling - is really quite phenomenal. In that particular enterprise I must
stress that with the core discipline knowledge of the job are a whole range of
people - mathematicians, physicists, chemists, economists, sociologists. There
is a interdiscipline in that business that is necessary to treat it with the
detailed level of complexity - and I see that as the threshold that we’re
now standing on. For those of us who are fortunate to be graduating today -
and I am counting myself amongst the numbers - no day career is not over yet.
Those of us who
are fortunate to be graduating today I think are faced with these magnificent
challenges. There is still plenty of
room for us to work through, of course, and I feel greatly honoured to be
standing before you in this great University today.
Vice Chancellor, colleagues, many thanks.
Last updated: 19 July 2002 17:00
Created by: Rachel Tunstall
Maintained by: Barbara Whiteman
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.
If you are an authorised user you may edit this document through your Web browser.