August 18

Australian scientist knighted.

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Professor Suzanne Cory has been made a Knight of France’s Legion of Honour (Légion d'Honneur) in recognition of her contribution to science.  A molecular geneticist, she has been a director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 2002.

Although she is a Companion of the Order of Australia, she cannot receive an Australian equivalent of the French republican knighthood.  The categories of Knight (AK) or Dame (AD) were  abolished by The Queen of Australia acting on the advice of the Hawke government in 1986, although existing knights and dames were not affected.

Similar titles were abolished in New Zealand in 2000, but in 2009, Prime Minister John Key restored them, with the provision that they be optional. Existing Principal Companions and Distinguished Companions (85 people in total) were given the option to convert their awards and become a Knight or Dame. This option was taken up by most of those affected. Only 13 declined.

The Ambassador of France in Australia, His Excellency Michel Filhol, on 12 June 2009 did what none of our Governors or the Governor-General can do, make an Australian citizen a Knight or Dame.

We have suggested here that titles be optional and the ranks of Knight and Dame be restored.  Such awards gain the international recognition that Australians – scientists, artists, athletes and others used to have. New Zealand is leading the way here.


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