14 July 2005
Public Orator, Professor
Steve Rothberg presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony
held on Thursday 14 July 2005 at 10.30am
new graduates, ladies and gentlemen
The purpose of an honorary
degree is to recognise outstanding and sustained contributions; sometimes
for excellence in research, sometimes for the advancement of a profession,
sometimes for a lifetime’s commitment for the benefit of society
in general. In the case of Professor Duncan Dowson, this award is merited
3 times over.
Those of you in the front
rows will know that we do not give our Loughborough degrees away lightly
and, while I do claim to hold Duncan in the highest possible regard,
I cannot claim that we have been quick off the mark to honour him. Duncan
became an external professor in my department in 2001, 26 years after
his first such appointment at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
And when he receives his honorary doctorate in a few moments, we will
be 26 years behind Chalmers University in Sweden who gave Duncan the
first of his honorary doctorates.
What we are recognising today,
however, is an important Golden Anniversary. Typically, it is not Duncan’s
first Golden Anniversary – we were beaten to this one by Duncan’s
wife Mabel who is here today to join our celebration. But we are, I
hope, the first to acknowledge the 50 years, actually a little over
now, since Duncan’s academic career began as a lecturer at the
University of Leeds.
Duncan Dowson is a tribologist.
You may not know quite what a tribologist does and may currently be
entertaining notions of remote civilisations and far-off lands. But
let me bring you back to the industrialised world because tribology
is the study of friction, wear and lubrication.
Thanks to tribologists, devices
from car engines to computer hard drives run ever more smoothly and
reliably. When a Formula 1 driver’s Sunday afternoon terminates
prematurely in a puff of smoke, it is to their tribologist that they
must turn for salvation. When the late Sir John Charnley was developing
the total hip replacement in the 1960’s, it was to our tribologist,
Professor Dowson, that he turned - much to the delight of the 50,000
people now receiving hip replacements each year in the UK.
While engaged in such a prolific
research career, Duncan still found time to be Head of Department, Dean
and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Leeds, as well as Deputy President and ultimately
President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers … and much
more. In return, the science and engineering community rightly found
time to make him Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers,
Life Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Fellow
of the Royal Academy of Engineers and Fellow of the Royal Society. In
1989, he received a CBE.
The immense value of his
work has resulted in prestigious awards from so many respected bodies
in the UK, Europe and the US. In 2001, the Institution of Mechanical
Engineers awarded Duncan the James Watt International Gold Medal. The
citation states: ‘to an engineer, of any nationality, deemed worthy
of the highest award that a mechanical engineer can receive’.
Therefore, Chancellor, I
have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, Professor
Duncan Dowson CBE, a truly distinguished engineer, for the degree of
DOCTOR OF SCIENCE, honoris causa.