ME Professor Michael Thouless received a Doctor of Science (ScD) degree from the University of Cambridge, on October 24. The ScD is one of six higher doctorates awarded by the University of Cambridge (DD, MD, LLD, ScD, LittD, MusD). At the University of Cambridge, higher doctorates are awarded on the basis of having demonstrated academic distinction and becoming an authority in a field of knowledge over the course of a career. As such, they are the descendents of the traditional doctorates which existed before the PhD was introduced into the UK.
A higher doctorate carries great prestige, and the application process is very involved, often taking over a year to complete. In order to qualify for the degree, candidates must be a graduate of Cambridge and “give proof of distinction by some original contribution to the advancement of science or of learning.” To satisfy this latter requirement, Thouless submitted 65 journal articles on a variety of topics that represented his best published work over the course of his career so far. He waited two years for the Degree Committee to assess his application and make its decision. About a dozen ScD degrees are awarded by Cambridge University every year; Thouless shares the honor of a Cambridge ScD with ME Professor Jim Barber, who received his degree in 1992.
Each recipient of this degree is entitled to wear a scarlet gown and hood during academic ceremonies. Thouless inherited his robes from his grandfather who was awarded an ScD 55 years ago, and will wear them at future graduation ceremonies at UM.