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OBE for world's leading Beckett expert

Professor James Knowlson

'It is wonderful to be recognised for something that you love doing and something that you are passionate about.' Professor Jim Knowlson

The world's leading expert on the Nobel-prize winning novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett has been awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours List.

Emeritus Professor Jim Knowlson was appointed OBE for services to literary scholarship.

He founded Reading's Beckett International Foundation and set up the Beckett Archive - the largest and richest collection of books, manuscripts and materials anywhere on the author - who died in 1989. Professor Knowlson, a close friend of Beckett's, is his sole authorised biographer.

A Reading graduate and PhD., Professor Knowlson came to the University in 1969 to a Lectureship then a Readership in French from the University of Glasgow, where he had lectured mainly on Eighteenth Century French literature and thought.

In Reading, he specialised in Modern European Drama and in 1981 became a Personal Professor in French - work which was recognised by the French government who awarded him the presitigious Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques in 2011.

Professor Knowlson said: "It is wonderful to be recognised for something that you love doing and something that you are passionate about. I was a close friend of Samuel Beckett for the last 19 years of his life so take great pride in the collection and archives that have been put together."

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell said: "Jim Knowlson has had an eminent career, devoted to scholarship of European theatre and the work of his great friend Samuel Beckett. He has been tireless in building the Beckett Archive into the richest collection of material in the world on the literary giant. And he has been instrumental in making the Beckett International Foundation into a globally-renowned research body.

"Jim is the complete opposite of that lazy stereotype that academics live in 'ivory towers'. He has friends from all walks of life; is interested in everything and anything; has never failed to help fellow students and staff at Reading throughout his career; and has had a lifelong passion for cricket, which he shared with Beckett."

Other awards went to two other academics closely-linked with the University.

Professor Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office since 2009, was made a Dame, for services to weather and climate science. Professor Slingo founded the University's Walker Institute for Climate System Research, was a Professor of Meteorology and Director of NCAS-Climate. She remains a visiting professor at Reading. For more see the Met Office website.

Professor Slingo said: "I'm honoured by this recognition, which acknowledges not just my work but also the excellence of Met Office research and those we partner with around the world. The UK has been at the forefront of great advances in this field and, with continued investment, we can continue to lead the way and provide tangible benefits to peoples' lives, to businesses and the wider economy."

Emeritus Professor Peter Lansley was appointed an MBE for services to research into ageing and well-being of older people. He worked in the University's School of Construction Management and Engineering from 1984 until his ‘retirement' in 2011. Since 1997, he has been advising councils, charities, professor bodies and government on developing national research programmes for improving the lives of elderly people.

Professor Lansley said: "I'm delighted and surprised to have received this. As a construction specialist, I never expected to find myself become so involved in setting up and running innovative aging- and disability-related research programmes, let alone making such progress in getting this accepted onto the mainstream agenda for government support. It is a recognition of the many different players who have made these projects such a success. I've been the lucky guy who has had the pleasure of bringing them all together."

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