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Prof Sir Peter Knight receives Honorary Doctorate

Posted on 30/07/2013

Professor Moreton Moore with Professor Sir Peter Knight

Professor Sir Peter Knight received an honorary doctorate at the graduation ceremony on 17 July 2013.  Below is the citation from Professor Moreton Moore:

Principal, it is my pleasure to present Professor Sir Peter Knight.

I first met Peter in 1976 when he came to Royal Holloway College to take up the post of Jubilee Research Fellow in Physics, a position which he held for two years and which was followed by another year here as Science & Engineering Research Council Advanced Fellow. During his three years at Royal Holloway, encouraged by Professor Doug Heddle and by the late Professor Coulter McDowell, Peter turned to looking at the properties of atoms in intense laser fields. This later became a major part of his research; and he acknowledges that the Jubilee Fellowship from RHC gave him the springboard to develop an independent career, one for which he is hugely grateful. 

After residence at Kingswood Hall, Peter and his wife Christine and three children lived in a tiny cottage in Victoria Street, Englefield Green. How they all fitted into such a small space, together with thousands of books, is still a mystery to me! I can only think that, as a physicist, he must have lived in ‘reciprocalspace’. David, his son, was so enamoured of Englefield Green that he stayed on as an undergraduate, never moved away and is now a local councillor, succeeding myself on Runnymede Borough Council. 

Peter’s undergraduate, and postgraduate, work was undertaken at Sussex University. He has pursued an interesting career both in England and in the United States of America. He has held positions at the University of Rochester (New York) and at the University of Sussex and, for the past 34 years, at Imperial College London, where he was Head of the Physics Department from 2001 to 2005.  His research centres on theoretical quantum optics, strong field physics and especially on quantum information science.

He was Editor of the Journal of Modern Optics for more than 20 years and he remains the editor of Contemporary Physics. He is a Thomson-ISI “Highly Cited Author”. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999; and furthermore he was elected to the Royal Society Council. Knight was knighted (!) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2005 for his work in optical physics.

Sir Peter is a Past-President of the Optical Society of America: the first outside North America. He was chair of the European Physical Society Quantum Electronics and Optics Division and a member of the EPS Council.  He was Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK National Physical Laboratory until the end of 2005; and was chair of the Defence Scientific Advisory Council at the UK Ministry of Defence until 2010; and a member of the Science and Technology Facilities Council until 2012.  He has been heavily involved in advising government on science issues for some years, and continues to be a Government science advisor.

He has won a number of prizes and awards: including the Thomas Young Medal and the Glazebrook Medal of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and the Ives Medal of the Optical Society of America.

Sir Peter retired at the end of September 2010 as Deputy Rector (Research) at Imperial College, where he was responsible for the College’s research strategy; and a member of the Imperial College Management Board and Council.  He retains his Professorship of Quantum Optics at Imperial.  He is currently Senior Fellow in Residence at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre at Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire; and President of the Institute of Physics.

In recognition, therefore, of his achievements in the field of Physics and for his services to the College, may I invite you, Principal, to confer the Degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa, of the University of London, on Professor Sir Peter Knight.

Professor Moreton Moore DSc FInstP
Honorary Fellow
17 July 2013


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