Irish Rugby player Brian O’Driscoll awarded another cap at Honorary Degrees

Posted on: 08 December 2017

Trinity recognised Irish Rugby player, Brian O’Driscoll along with five other pre-eminent individuals for their contribution to society at today’s honorary degrees. The impressive line-up which included a journalist, archivist, astrophysicist and neuroscientist were awarded Trinity’s highest honour by the Chancellor of the University, Mary Robinson at a ceremony in Latin in the Public Theatre.

Provost with George Miley, Olivia O'Leary, Mary Robinson, Brian O'Driscoll, Caitriona Crowe &  Gero Miesenbock.

The most capped Irish rugby player and the second most capped in rugby union history, Brian O’Driscoll was awarded with a Doctor in Laws.  Having played 141 test matches he has scored 46 tries for Ireland, making him the highest try scorer of all time in Irish rugby. He is the 8th highest try scorer in international rugby union history, and the highest scoring centre of all time. His prowess on the pitch and phenomenal contribution to Irish and world sport was captured in her oration by Public Orator, Professor Anna Chahoud:

“His feats on the sport field have been described as Herculean, sensational, world-class. Who can forget the ‘hat-trick’ on his debut in Paris, against a celebrated French side at Stade de France? Or the waltz he danced into victory at the World Cup in Melbourne? Who can forget the astonishment in the Magners League game against Ulster, when Lansdowne Road saw him pass the ball to himself? If you ask how he did all that he did, I will reply with the words of a special fan: ‘he assaults the impossible in a quest to reach the upper slopes of human endeavour’.”

He was joined by one of Ireland’s foremost journalists and broadcasters Olivia O’Leary who was also conferred with a Doctor in Laws. She hosted flagship programmes Today Tonight, Prime Time and Question and Answers, winning awards for these and BBC Radio 4’s Between Ourselves. Also writing for the Irish Times, Olivia O’Leary became established as one of the most formidable reporters in political journalism. Importantly, her work has contributed to social cohesion and consciousness. Her honorary degree oration emphasised this quality and that “she simply is the voice of the uncompromising quest for the truth”:

“Journalism, like poetry, ‘should be in search of the truth, and it needs to be very honest: you can almost always tell when it’s not.’ With this recent statement our last candidate, with characteristic incisiveness, sums up the formidable power of words, and the immense responsibility of her ‘trade’, which requires an unfailing commitment to good and truthful journalism.”

 A champion of public history and pre-eminent authority on the state’s modern records Catriona Crowe who was Senior Archivist of the National Archives of Ireland until her retirement last year, was awarded a Doctor in Letters. Throughout her career she has made an outstanding contribution to learning, most recently through her initiation and management of the 1911 online census project. The Public Orator extolled  her passionate commitment in making Ireland’s archives accessible:

“Our country finds no stronger advocate of fairness, respect, and historical truth than this formidable archivist and activist. In a life-long commitment to archival research and social change, she has powerfully demonstrated that the strongest foundation of a fairer future lies in the unbiased and responsible analysis of our past. She has embraced that responsibility splendidly, becoming a leading authority on the State’s modern records.”

Another leader in his field Gero Miesenböck, Waynflete Professor of Physiology and Director of the Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at the University of Oxford has pioneered the field of research called optogenetics, which allows the function of specific neurons in the intact brain to be remote-controlled with light. He has used optogenetics to investigate mechanisms of sleep, learning and memory, and action choice.  He was awarded with a Doctor in Science and in her oration the Public Orator stressed the significance of his research:

“We owe him a new field of science, which he called optogenetics, or: controlling the brain with light. In the firm belief that psychological activity has a physiological basis, he interrogates brain cells to unlock the causes, the connections, and the mechanisms of mental life – our perceptions, our emotions, our memories, our plans for the future. The questions he tackles are daring. What happens in the brain during decision-making processes? What happens during sleep, ‘one of the greatest biological mysteries’? His method is both revolutionary and wonderfully simple in its concept.”

Finally George Miley is Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at Leiden University and has received a Dutch knighthood for his services to astronomy and society.  Professor Miley who was born and educated in Dublin was awarded a Doctor in Science. He has championed the use of astronomy as a unique tool for education and development, in particular for very young children and to stimulate international development which was emphasised in the final honorary degree oration which honoured him most appropriately:

“Astronomy is a perfect tool for education of people of all ages and social backgrounds: we are all equal under the sky. From this belief springs his Universe Awareness programme for young children, and the ‘Astronomy for Development’ programme, which he designed when he was Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union. His studies initiated the revolutionary telescope Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), which allows millions of people to explore the universe from stations spread across Europe: go to the Irish station at Birr Castle, and marvel at a miracle as magnificent as Newgrange.”  


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