Thursday, October 15, 2009

Proposal for Regius Professorship of Botany

There will be a discussion in the Senate-House, on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 to discuss the University's proposal to seek the assent of Her Majesty The Queen that the Professorship of Botany be re-titled the Regius Professorship of Botany, to commemorate the forthcoming visit by Her Majesty to the University on 19 November 2009 and the University's 800th anniversary year.

The University currently has six Regius Professorships: of Civil Law, Divinity, Greek, Hebrew, and Physic, all established in 1540; and of Modern History, established in 1724. Regius Professorships also exist at the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, St Andrews, and Trinity College Dublin.

The Professorship of Botany, established in 1724, is one of the University's oldest unnamed Professorships in a fundamental scientific discipline. Although it was not established as a Regius Professorship, its early royal connections are clear: the third Professor, Thomas Martyn, received a patent from His Majesty King George III, and was styled by the Crown as 'our Public Professor or Reader of Botany'. His successor John Henslow, Professor of Botany, 1824-61, held the office of King's Reader by patent from the Crown while his appointment to the Professorship was under consideration.

As well as being an enduring memorial to Her Majesty's visit to the University, the Council and the General Board consider that renaming the Professorship would be particularly timely, given the University's leading role in the current international celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose scientific mentor was Professor Henslow. The historical context of Darwin's scientific legacy is mirrored by the importance of the modern field of plant sciences in areas as diverse as food security, biodiversity, conservation, and medicine. Within the University a new Laboratory for fundamental research in plant sciences, generously funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation is currently under construction.

The current holder of the Professorship, Professor Sir David Baulcombe, FRS, has been consulted about the proposal which also has the support of the Head of the School of the Biological Sciences.

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