Tomorrow, Cambridge University will give an honorary degree to Carl Djerassi, Professor of Chemistry at Stanford, and one of the few people alive to whom the description of polymath might properly be applied — see here if you have any doubts. He’s the guy who invented the contraceptive pill, and could thus be said to have changed millions of lives, and indeed whole societies. I particularly liked his account of how he came to have an Austrian postal stamp dedicated to him.
Another honorary degree will go to David Crystal, one of the world’s leading experts on language (and also one of the most depressingly prolific authors in any language). There was a dinner in my college tonight in his honour, and to my delight I wound up sitting next to him at dessert where we had an intense discussion about Blogging and its significance. It turns out that he’s done a second edition of his book, Language and the Internet, to catch up on what has happened, linguistically speaking, on the Net in the years since the first edition came out in 2001. (Just think: when he was writing the first edition, ‘google’ wasn’t a verb!) I look forward to seeing the new version.