UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop receives honorary Harvard degree

By Wallace Ravven

J. Michael Bishop, MD, chancellor of UCSF, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Harvard University at the school's commencement ceremony June 10. Bishop was recognized for his pioneering cancer research, leadership in the national scientific community and inspired teaching. Other recipients of honorary degrees at Harvard's commencement included Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations; acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood; and ballerina and ballet director Suzanne Farrell. Bishop, who is also University Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF, shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Harold Varmus for their discovery that normal cellular genes can be converted to cancer genes. The discovery transformed the way scientists look at cancer and has led to new strategies for the detection and treatment of the disease. In recognition of this research, Bishop and Varmus also received the 1982 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the 1984 Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the 1984 Gairdner Foundation International Award. Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Bishop received his undergraduate education at Gettysburg College and his MD at Harvard Medical School. He was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board by former President Clinton in 1994 and served as Chair of the Board from 1997 to 2000. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Director of the National Institutes of Health and has served on the Board of Overseers for Harvard University. Bishop has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A popular teacher, he continues to teach medical students and supervise a research team studying the molecular mechanisms of cancer. He is the author of more than 300 research papers and reviews. His book How to Win the Nobel Prize: An Unexpected Life in Science, was published in 2003. Also receiving honorary degrees at Harvard's 353rd commencement were U.S. District Judge Robert L. Carter, who was part of the team of NAACP lawyers who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case before the Supreme Court; Daniel Kahneman, PhD, Princeton University professor and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for his research applying insights of psychology to economics; Sir Frank Kermode, one of Britain's most distinguished and influential literary critics; Shirley M. Tilghman, PhD, a prominent genetics researcher and President of Princeton University; and Edward O. Wilson, PhD, the Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus at Harvard, an expert on ant biology and social behavior, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and an influential advocate of protecting the world's biodiversity.