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Honorary Degrees for Sir Antony Sher, Michael Nyman and Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys

The University of Warwick has announced that it is to present Honorary Degrees to; award winning actor Sir Antony Sher, acclaimed composer Michael Nyman and renowned DNA specialist Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, at its Winter Degree Ceremonies on Tuesday 30th January 2007.

Short Biographies of the honorary graduands now follow:

Sir Antony Sher Hon DLitt (Doctor of Letters)

Sir Antony studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1969 to 1971. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. A key moment in his career came in 1985 when he played the title role in Shakespeare's Richard III. This role won him both the Laurence Olivier Award for best actor, and the Evening Standard Award for best actor. In 1997 he again won the Laurence Olivier Award for best actor in a play, for his part as Stanley Spencer. Further honour came in 2000 when he was knighted.

Sir Antony has played major roles in many significant theatrical productions, including: Shakespeare's Iago, Shylock, Macbeth and Malvolio; Marlowe's Tamburlaine; Marston's Malcontent; Molière's Tartuffe; and Cyrano de Bergerac. He is about to play the actor Edmund Kean in a production of Jean-Paul Sartre's play about the actor's life. His stage career also encompasses directing critically acclaimed plays such as the Breakfast with Mugabe.

In television he starred in the mini-series The History Man (1981) and The Jury (2002). On the big screen he won particular praise for his portrayal of Disraeli in the film Mrs. Brown.

He is also an author. His books and writings include the memoirs Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa, with Gregory Doran (1997), Year of the King (1985), Beside Myself (2002), Characters (1990), and Primo Time (2005); the novels, Cheap Lives (1995), The Indoor Boy (1996), Middlepost (1989), and The Feast (1999); and the play ID (2003).

He is also an accomplished visual artist. His self-portraits, theatre portraits and book illustrations are about to be exhibited at the London Jewish Cultural Centre.

The oration for Sir Antony's degree will be delivered by the University of Warwick's Professor Jonathan Bate. Professor Bate has just completed a new edition of Shakespeare's complete works and he was also founding Director of the University of Warwick's Capital Centre - operated in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys Hon DSc (Doctor of Science)

Alec Jeffreys's long and distinguished scientific career includes two fundamental discoveries whose impact is now seen everywhere from textbooks to the popular press. In 1975, while at the University of Amsterdam working with Richard Flavell, he discovered that the genes of most organisms are not continuous stretches of DNA, but discontinuous. Stretches of apparently 'meaningless' DNA are present as interruptions or 'introns'. This has very wide-ranging consequences for how genes function.

In 1977 he returned to the UK to take up a Lectureship in Genetics at Leicester University. His study of individual differences in DNA structure led him to focus on regions of extreme variability and to publish, in 1985, research which has provided the foundation of what has come to be called 'DNA fingerprinting'. This technology has become famous through its high-profile applications in forensic identification and paternity disputes.

Alec Jeffreys has led the field of mammalian molecular genetics throughout that time and has continued to carry out outstanding original research. He has received many honours including: Fellow of the Royal Society 1986, the Davy Medal 1987, Midlander of the Year 1989, the Freedom of the City of Leicester 1992, a Knighthood in 1994, the Gowland Hopkins Medal awarded by the Biochemical Society in 1996, and in 2004 Europe's leading medical award, the Louis-Jeantet Prize.

Michael Nyman Hon DLitt (Doctor of Letters)

A British composer, pianist, librettist and musicologist. He has been a regular and popular performer at the University's Warwick Arts Centre for many years. He has performed there with the Michael Nyman Band and most recently as solo pianist in the show The Piano Sings.

He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and King's College, London. The exploration of baroque music he had undertaken as a student led him to draw on early music sources in his scores for Peter Greenaway's films; The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, A Zed and Two Noughts and Prospero's Books.

He has created music for a great many other films including Wonderland, Gattacca , Brimstone and Treacle, Drowning by Numbers, The Diary of Anne Frank, Ravenous, The End of the Affair, The Libertine, A Cock a Bull Story and many more. However one of his most acclaimed film works is probably the score to Jane Campion's award-winning 1993 film The Piano. The album

became a massive classical music hit, winning an Ivor Novello Award and selling over three million copies. His score was nominated for both a British Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

Among Nyman's better known non-film works are the opera Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs (1987); Ariel Songs (1990) for soprano and band; MGV (Musique à Grande Vitesse) (1993) for band and orchestra; concertos for saxophone; the opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1986), and Facing Goya (2000) an opera on the subject of cloning.

Many of Nyman's works are written for his own ensemble, the Michael Nyman Band, a group formed for a 1976 production of Carlo Goldoni's Il Campiello.

Nyman also published an influential book in 1974 on experimental music called Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. He is generally acknowledged to have been the first to apply the term "minimalism" to music, in a 1968 article in The Spectator magazine about the English composer Cornelius Cardew.

The University of Warwick is delighted that Michael Nyman's latest musical work will be heard for the first time in the very degree ceremony in which he will be awarded his honorary degree as he written a new Fanfare specially for the University's degree ceremonies.

For further information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager,
University of Warwick Tel: 024 76 523708
or 07767 655860 email:

PR5 PJD 22nd January 2007