Royal Medal awards

THREE Royal Medals for outstanding achievement have been awarded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, the RSE’s president, made the presentations to Professor Sir Philip Cohen, FRS, FRSE; Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, FRSE, FBA, QC; and Professor Robin Milner, FRS, FRSE, yesterday.

The RSE said it had selected the medallists "in recognition of intellectual endeavour which has had a profound influence on people’s lives, worldwide".

Professor Sir Philip Cohen, of Dundee University, was awarded his medal for his outstanding contribution to life sciences.

The RSE said: "Sir Philip’s discoveries in the role of protein phosphorylation and its deregulation in major diseases, particularly diabetes, have led to the development of a new scientific investigation and also to the development of new therapeutic drugs.

"At the University of Dundee, Sir Philip Cohen has played a major part in the remarkable recent development of life sciences. His enthusiasm, energy and influence have been crucial in the recruitment of many leading life scientists to Dundee and the establishment of the new Wellcome Trust Building and the associated Biocentre.

"His efforts have had a significant effect on the economy of Dundee, both in terms of direct employment at the Biocentre and in the establishment of industrial spin-offs.

"He is leading the construction of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, a new research building for the School of Life Sciences due to open in 2005. Sir Philip has made, and continues to make, a major contribution to the life sciences in Scotland."

Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, one of the world’s leading philosophers of law, was appointed Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations in the University of Edinburgh in 1972. Sir Neil was awarded a medal for his outstanding contribution to academic life in Scotland and internationally, particularly in the field of legal philosophy.

The RSE said: "His central contribution to the scholarship of the philosophy of law has been the concept of law as ‘institutional fact’. Sir Neil has built upon and critically revised the work of the leading legal philosopher of the mid-20th century, HLA Hart, but has also established his own reputation with five major books and numerous essays, notably on the legal theory of the Scottish Enlightenment; legal reasoning as a branch of practical reason; the theory of sovereignty in the context of the European Union, and on social democracy, liberalism and nationalism.

"As a member of the recent convention that drafted the proposed Constitutional Treaty for the European Union, he has had an opportunity to bring together theory and practice in an unusual way.

"His boundless personal generosity has won him a host of friends and admirers everywhere, but he has never lost sight of, or touch with, Scotland in either academic or political terms. He is one of the most distinguished Scots of his generation."

Professor Robin Milner was awarded a medal for his outstanding contributions to software engineering which have changed the face of modern computer science.

The RSE said: "His first major contribution to computer science was to invent the notion of a proof assistant whereby one could give the computer the structure of the proof via so-called tactics, and have it carry out the details.

"His Calculus of Communicating Systems was one of the first to demonstrate the power of a small formalism tuned to a particular area, in contrast to a large mathematically unwieldy programming language.

"His next major contribution was pi-calculus, a language which has been extremely influential in the scientific study of mobile computation and has also found numerous applications, for example in languages for the worldwide web and for computer security protocols. He is the fourth most cited author in computing science according to the NEC citation index.

"Robin Milner is one of the world’s leading computer scientists, developing and applying mathematical logic. His contributions to computer science have been enormous."

Prof Milner became a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in 1973, obtaining a Personal Chair in 1984. In 1995, he took up the first established Chair at Cambridge.