Nottingham's knight of Norway – honour for University scientist

20 Jan 2012 11:45:41.727


A University of Nottingham scientist has received a New Year’s Honour with a difference…a Knight of the First Class from the King of Norway.

Professor Stephen Harding is Director of the University’s National Centre for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics (NCMH) and is also a member of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age

The Norwegian Royal Palace said His Majesty King Harald V has appointed Professor Harding a Knight of the 1st Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. This is the highest honour for a foreign national who is not a Head of State for "outstanding service in the interests of Norway".

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Crossing the Disciplines

In his role at the National Centre for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics, Professor Harding has been collaborating extensively with Norwegian scientists for many years. But over the past 15 years he has also been a dynamic force in the scientific and historical investigation of the Vikings in North West England, where he hails from, and it is mainly in recognition of these activities he has received the award.

Viking DNA 

He has actively involved the public in his research, built around the highly successful Genetic Survey of Wirral and West Lancashire, done jointly with the University of Leicester and funded by a prestigious Watson-Crick DNA award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with which he was principal investigator. That work has led to a more extensive survey of the rest of northern England. The public engagement has involved lectures, school visits, heritage trails and the establishment of a Schools web site working in conjunction with Mike McCartney, brother of Sir Paul. More recently he instigated the establishment of a St. Olav’s heritage walk between Wirral and Chester – last year it was joined by BBC’s Michael Wood who will be featuring it in a new TV series to be broadcast this year.  

Professor Harding said: “I was shell-shocked when I received the news from the Ambassador, but I would like to thank all the support I’ve had from many people especially Professor Judith Jesch and Dr. Paul Cavill at the CSVA and Professor Mark Jobling and Dr. Turi King at the University of Leicester. Research into our past – and in particular the Viking Age - now crosses a wide range of Academic disciplines, and this has been good for me as I have been able to combine something that has interested me for as long as I care to remember with my scientific training. This award in all honesty represents a team effort”.

Peter Copland, Consul from the Royal Norwegian Consulate of Liverpool said: “Norway has every reason to be grateful to Professor Harding for his enormous contribution towards unearthing the facts surrounding the country's early colonial expansion and I would like to offer him my sincere thanks and congratulations for all that he has done to increase our awareness of the common heritage of the two countries.”

Professor Harding was educated at Pembroke College Oxford (BA Physics & Molecular Biophysics) and the University of Leicester (PhD Physical Biochemistry). After research positions at the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge he joined the University as a New Blood lecturer in 1984 and has been Professor since 1997.  He is a medallist of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a DSc from Oxford and has published over 350 research papers and authored/ co-authored many books. 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Centre for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics which he founded as a joint enterprise with the University of Leicester in 1987. The anniversary is being celebrated on 13th September with a special meeting unveiling plans for the next 25 years with guest speakers including the world renowned Professor Sir Tom Blundell who is at present Chairman of the BBSRC. 

For more details about Professor Harding’s research, visit his website on

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More information is available from Professor Stephen Harding , University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 6148

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