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Ragnar Arthur GRANIT

Doctor of Science
honoris causa

About twelve centuries ago a powerful Scandinavian ruler called Ragnar Lodbrok invaded England and was killed in a fight with the Saxon king of Northumbria. He was called Ragnar because in nordic sagas this name stands for strength and power such as is possessed by mythical gods. The invasion of England by Ragnar Granit in the early thirties of this century was a more peaceful affair, carried out with the purpose of becoming one of the pupils of the grandfather of modern neurophysiology, Sir Charles Sherrington. We must, in this year of 1961, regard Sherrington as a grandparent, for there is no doubt, Mr Chancellor, that the father of neurophysiology today is the man who now stands before you.

He came to Sherrington at Oxford having spent three years as a Fellow in Medical Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to that he had emerged, with an interest in psychology, as a Doctor of Medicine from Helsingfors University, Finland, the country in which he was born in 1900. It was to this University that he returned, in 1937, as Professor of Physioiogy. Three years later he was invited to become Director of the Institute for Neurophysiology at the Caroline Institute, Stockholm, a Chair in Neurophysiology being created for him there in 1946.

His researches have led to a deeper understanding of the physiology of vision, and have added greatly to knowledge of the nervous mechanisms by which posture and movement are effected and controlled. His book on Receptors and Sensory Perception, based, on the Silliman Memorial Lectures he delivered at Yale University in 1954, constitutes a landmark in this field equivalent in stature and significance to Sherrington's classical Silliman Lectures on The Integrative Action of the Nervous System published some fifty years earlier.

The value of his contributions to knowledge is now widely recognised in the scientific world. He is a Member of the Royal Society, London, of the Royal Swedish and Royal Danish Academies of Science, and of many other similar bodies in Europe and America. He was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Medicine by Oslo University in 1951, and the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by Oxford in 1956. He has received five international prizes for research from institutions in Sweden, Norway, Holland, and Italy; two of these, the Anders Jahre Medical Prize of Oslo University, and the Saint Vincent Prize of the Turin Academy of Medicine, were awarded to him within the space of a fortnight this year.

During the past week, Professor Granit has presided as Chairman of the Symposium on Muscle Receptors held as part of our Golden Jubilee Congress. Having been thus tempted to visit the Far East for the first time, he is now obliged to double back to Europe with all speed to communicate some of his latest findings at another international conference in Italy. It gives us cause for both pride and pleasure to know that he will return as an honorary Doctor of Science honoris causa of this University. 

Citation written and delivered by Professor D Barker, MA, DPhil, the Public Orator of the University.

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