Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve wins Holberg Prize 2017

17th March 2017

o'neill main contentSomerville Honorary Fellow, renowned British Philosopher and crossbench member of the House of Lords, Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve has been awarded this year’s Holberg Prize, for her ‘distinguished and influential role in the field of philosophy and for shedding light on pressing intellectual and ethical questions of our time,’ as stated by the Holberg board.  

Baroness O’Neill came to Somerville College to study Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology in 1959. Her introduction to the second edition of her first book, Acting on Principle, which was published in December 2013, describes the intellectual roots and subsequent development of her own work as a philosopher, including those that began during her years as a Somerville undergraduate.

In addition to receiving the award for outstanding research in the arts and humanities, the author, scholar and professor known for her research on political philosophy and ethics will receive a financial award of 4.5 million Norwegian kroner (£430,000).

Baroness O’Neill has also played a significant role in public policy issues, serving as chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2012-16) and as a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (1996-98), the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (1996-99) and, since 2016, the Banking Standards Board. She was principal of Newnham College, Cambridge between 1992 and 2006. She has published 11 books, which have been widely acclaimed for their contribution to understanding of global justice and human rights.

‘Not only has she transformed our understanding of Kant, she has also demonstrated how to do philosophy in a way that measures up to the complex moral demands of the world,’ said Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, chairman of the Holberg Academic Committee. ‘Her philosophical work is rigorous, yet gracious in its articulation and profoundly moved by a deep and abiding concern for humanity. O’Neill is a true citizen philosopher.’

The Holberg Prize was established by the Norwegian Parliament in 2003 to recognise scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to research in the arts and humanities, social science, law or theology. The formal ceremony will take place at the University of Bergen on the 8th of June.

Somerville extends to Onora O’Neill its warmest congratulations and admiration on her Holberg award.

To read a profile of Baroness O’Neill in the 2015 Trailblazers edition of the Somerville Magazine, please follow this link.


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