United legend to receive honorary degree

14 Oct 2013

A Manchester football hero and a recent Nobel Prize winner will receive honorary degrees from The University of Manchester this week.

Sir Bobby Charlton
Sir Bobby Charlton

United legend Sir Bobby Charlton and Professor Peter Higgs, who has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, will be honoured by the University at a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.

Honorary degrees will also be conferred upon Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Professor Mario Molina, who will also deliver this year’s Foundation Lecture at The University of Manchester.


The Honorary Graduands

Prof Peter Higgs, the scientist who gave his name to the Higgs-boson particle, was awarded the Nobel Prize last week. The 84-year-old was part of a group of scientists in the 1960s that dedicated their work to theorising the Higgs-boson particle.

Last year in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider discovered the theoretical particle some 49 years later, helping to explain how the building blocks of the universe have mass. Prof Higgs shared the Prize with Belgian scientist Francois Englert.

Prof Higgs posited in 1964 that subatomic particles gained mass by way of a particle that has since been called the Higgs-boson. Prof Higgs grew up in Birmingham and Bristol, then went to King's College in London in 1947.

He went on to earn his doctorate and then became a researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Between 1960 and 1980, Higgs was a mathematics professor there, and from 1980 he was a professor of theoretical physics. His theory of the missing boson drove physics research for decades. In July of last year at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, results were presented which confirmed Peter Higgs’ idea and heralded the start of the next chapter to study in detail the properties of this new particle.


Sir Bobby Charlton is probably best known for his outstanding record as a footballer for Manchester United and England. Being immortalised in bronze outside Old Trafford evidences the legendary status achieved by Sir Bobby during his epic career.

He burst onto the scene as a flag-bearer for the ‘Busby Babes’ and went on to form part of United’s fabled ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside George Best and Denis Law.

His achievements since his football career ended have been immense, often for benefit of the City of Manchester, as well as further afield. Sir Bobby is a member of the Laureus Academy which uses the power of sport to help tackle pressing social challenges through the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation projects.

In 2011, he founded the ‘Find a Better Way’ charity to develop new technology to accelerate the detection and removal of landmines globally, working with The University of Manchester and other partners in the North West.


Professor Mario Molina is a Professor at the University of California, San Diego. In the 1970’s he drew attention to the threat to the ozone layer from industrial chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases that were being used as propellants in spray cans, refrigerants and solvents.

More recently, he has been involved with the chemistry of air pollution of the lower atmosphere, and with the science and policy of climate change.

Prof Molina was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican.

He has received many honorary degrees, as well as numerous awards for his scientific work, including the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


Frances O’Grady, an alumnus of The University of Manchester, is General Secretary of the TUC. Joining the TUC as Campaigns Officer in 1994, she launched the TUC’s Organising Academy in 1997.

Frances headed the TUC’s organisation department in 1999, reorganising local skills projects into unionlearn which now helps a quarter of a million workers into learning every year.

As Deputy General Secretary from 2003, Frances has led on industrial policy, the NHS and the Olympics. She has served as a member of both the Low Pay Commission and the High Pay Centre, and the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards.

Frances was born in Oxford, has two adult children and lives in North London.


Foundation Lecture

Prof Molina will give this year’s Foundation Lecture at The University of Manchester on Wednesday afternoon. The event is held annually to mark the formal creation of The University of Manchester in 2004, universally hailed as one of the boldest and most ambitious initiatives in UK higher education.

Following the opening address by the University’s President and Vice Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Warren Smith, will confer the Regius Professorship on the School of Physics and Astronomy.

The School was awarded the rare professorship by the Queen in January in recognition of its exceptionally high quality of teaching and research in the discipline. The inaugural Regius Professor of Physics at Manchester will be Professor Andre Geim.

Following the lecture, the honorary degrees will be conferred by the Chancellor of The University of Manchester, Tom Bloxham, in the Whitworth Hall.

Notes for editors

Contact Jon Keighren, Media Relations Manager, The University of Manchester 0161 275 8384