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Lord Alec Broers

Areas of Interest

Education, Science and Technology

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 2000


Lord Alec Broers began his career at Cambridge in King's College chapel where he won a choral scholarship at Gonville and Caius in 1960. Having already completed a first degree in Physics at Melbourne University in Australia, he undertook a further year of studying electronics. Following graduation in 1962, his pioneering work in nanotechnology led to the production of the now familiar miniature electronic circuits that are part of all of our lives today. He then moved to the IBM research laboratories in New York. In 1977 he was given the honour of being an IBM fellow, allowing him the freedom to follow whatever road of enquiry he wished, with no commercial constraint. In 1984 he returned to Cambridge to become the Chair of Electrical Engineering, bringing the Department to the forefront in the world of nanotechnology research. In 1992 he became Head of Department and was instrumental in establishing a School of Technology, marking the coming of age of the subject and recognition of the importance of the Department within Cambridge University. Professor Lord Broers was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1996.

In 2000 Professor Lord Alec Broers was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of the University.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of the University to Professor Sir Alec Broers, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Today, we honour Sir Alec, who served as Head of the Department of Engineering and Master of Churchill College, Cambridge until 1996. However, although not a native of that land (indeed, he was born in India) he graduated first from Melbourne University (Australia) before coming to Gonville and Caius College. At Melbourne he obtained a BSc degree in Physics and Electronics and at Cambridge a BA in Mechanical Sciences and PhD and ScD degrees in Electrical Engineering. He was knighted in the New Year's Honours of 1998.

After completing his PhD in 1965, he spent almost twenty years working for IBM in the USA, first at the IBM Thomas Watson Research Center in New York, then in the East Fishkill Development Laboratory and finally, in the Corporate Headquarters. He was appointed an IBM Fellow and served on IBM's Corporate Technical Committee. After leaving the company, he became a member of its Scientific Advisory Committee. Sir Alec returned to Cambridge in 1984 when he was elected Professor of Electrical Engineering, the next year Fellow of Trinity College and subsequently Master of Churchill College and Head of the University Engineering Department.

His personal research has involved the application of electrons, X-rays and ultra-violet light to microscopy and the manufacture of micro-electronic components, which has given rise to a number of patents and publications. In Cambridge, he established a nano-fabrication laboratory in which the technology of miniaturization was extended to the atomic scale.

Over recent years, Sir Alec has served on numerous British Government, EU and NATO committees, including the UK Engineering and Physics, Science and Research Council (EPSRC), the Cabinet Office Foresight Panel on Information Technology and the NATO Special Panel on Nanoscience. He has recently been a member of the Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He also serves on the Council for Science and Technology and on the Board of Vodaphone AirTouch Plc.

Sir Alec has been the recipient of a host of prizes and awards, including the American Institute of Physics Prize for the Application of Science and the New Jersey-based IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award. He is a fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Institute of Physics and is a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Engineering.

However, in spite of his worldly greatness, he is both human and agreeable, a man who likes nothing better that small boat sailing under hazardous conditions (I suspect the more hazardous, the better!) and skiing.

Sir Alec is a passionate believer in the importance of fostering the talents of entrepreneurs. For him a University should not be an isolated bastion of learning surrounded by protective defences against the outside world of commerce and finance, but a nursery for entrepreneurs intimately involved with the opportunities of technological development and technology transfer. He has turned this passion into a mission within Cambridge University and among the technology companies that spring up and flourish in and around Cambridge. He is a founder member of the Cambridge Network that brings these companies together. He was also a driving force behind the successful bid to establish an Entrepreneurship Centre in Cambridge as part of the Government's Science Enterprise. In all this he is both a role model for our own University and a signpost for the direction in which we need to move.

Sir Alec is an outstanding role model through his being a gifted engineering scientist of international repute, a most able administrator and a man of great enterprise and vision, our University is fortunate to have him as our neighbour and good friend.

It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Vice-Chancellor, to confer on Professor Sir Alec Broers, an Honorary Doctorate of this University."