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Honorary degrees awarded at Bristol University

Press release issued: 10 July 2003

Bristol University is awarding Honorary degrees to Professor Carol Black, Professor Shu-Sheng Jiang, Professor Christopher Ricks and Emily Watson at today's degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building.

Bristol University is awarding Honorary degrees to four prominent people at today's degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building.

Professor Carol Black, President of the Royal College of Physicians, and Professor Shu-Sheng Jiang, President of Nanjing University, People's Republic of China, will be honoured with the degrees of Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Laws respectively at the 11.15am ceremony.

As Professor Shu-Sheng Jiang is unable to attend the ceremony, he will be represented by Mr Wang Yongda, from the Chinese embassy.

Professor Carol Black read history at the University of Bristol, but soon discovered her real passion: medicine. At the age of 25, she began a degree in medicine at Bristol where her interest in scleroderma, a chronic, autoimmune disease of the connective tissue, began.

After leaving Bristol in 1975, she worked at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, and then became a consultant physician at the West Middlesex Hospital where she created a world-renowned clinical research centre in scleroderma.

In 1989 she moved to an academic post at the Royal Free Hospital, and was awarded her chair in 1993. She was able to expand her work on scleroderma and became the undisputed UK expert in the condition. It was for her contributions to the study of this disease that she was awarded the CBE in last year's honours list.

In 1997 she joined the Council of the Royal College of Physicians, and in 2000, she became medical director of the Royal Free Hospital. In 2002, she became President of the Royal College of Physicians, only the second woman to hold that office in the College's 600-year history.

Professor Shu-Sheng Jiang was born in the Jiangsu Province of China in 1940. He grew up during the Second World War, and the tumultous years leading up to the proclamation of the Republic of China in 1949.

He entered Nanjing University as a student in 1958, graduated with an honours degree in 1963, and was appointed as a Research Assistant and Lecturer in 1963. In 1966, the Cultural Revolution was initiated and thousands of years of Chinese history and culture were effectively wiped out. As a result, China's education system was completely disrupted and it was only after Mao Zedong's death in 1976 that the country began to make massive strides to recover from the chaos caused by the Cultural Revolution.

During this period, China's relationships with other countries started to improve and a major step in the intellectual recovery of the universities was taken when top academics were allowed to obtain passports to study abroad. In 1979, with support from the British Council, Shu-Sheng Jiang came to Bristol to study X-ray crystallography in the Department of Physics.

In 1982, he returned to Nanjing University as a Lecturer, later becoming an Associate Professor, a full Professor and then President. He has held visiting professorships in the University of Sydney and the Italian National Research Council and received six National and Provincial prizes in Science and Technology. He has also served two four-year terms as a Member of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of China.

Professor Jiang's longstanding relationship with Bristol University was strengthened in March this year by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance both research and the exchange of students and academics between the Physics Departments of Bristol and Nanjing.

Professor Christopher Ricks, literary critic and editor, and the actress, Emily Watson, a Bristol graduate, will be honoured with the degrees of Doctor of Laws and Master of Arts respectively at the 2.30pm ceremony.

Professor Christopher Ricks is one of the greatest literary critics of our times. Currently Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University, and an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, Worcester College, Oxford, and Christ's College, Cambridge, he was also Professor of English at Bristol University.

He has published ground-breaking works on English drama and poetry including the vastly influential Milton's Grand Style on the poet John Milton, a literary life of Tennyson, Keats and Embarassment, and T.S. Eliot and Prejudice.

He is a critic who has always shunned the traditional wisdom, most famously in his work on Bob Dylan which argues that Dylan is a major literary figure worthy of comparison with Keats.

He has been praised for his ability to reshape responses to individual poets and to the history of poetry in general. His study of poetry involves not only astute and challenging commentaries on the texts themselves, but also a profound understanding of history and past cultures.

Emily Watson is an actress who has enjoyed critical and popular success in Hollywood movies and art-house films, and on the stage in this country and America.

Born in London, she took a degree in English at Bristol University, where she was thoroughly involved in student drama. After university, she completed her training at the Drama Studio in London and, in 1992, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in productions that included All's Well That Ends Well, The Taming of the Shrew and The Changeling.

Her break came in 1996, when Lars von Trier, one of the founders of the dogme school of film making, cast her as the lead in his film Breaking the Waves. She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress, won the London Film Critics Circle Award as Best British Newcomer, the Felix Award for Best Actress and the New York Critics Circle Best Actress Award.

She went on to make Metroland with Christian Bale and The Boxer with Daniel Day-Lewis, and then, in 1998, she was cast as Jaqueline du Pré in the film, Hilary and Jackie. The role brought her a second Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination.

In the past few years, she has played a wide variety of character types in films of many different genres including Angela's Ashes, The Cradle Will Rock, Gosford Park, Punch Drunk Love and Red Dragon, for which she won the prestigious Toronto Film Critics Best Actress award.

She has just finished filming The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, playing Sellers' first wife, opposite Geoffrey Rush.

She also continues to appear on the stage, starring last year in London and New York as Viola in Twelfth Night and Sonya in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, for which she was nominated for an Olivier award as Best Actress.

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