Would it surprise you to learn that the Booker Prize, which appears to have been around for ever, judging by the annual fuss, is only 28 years old? The Hawthornden Prize, perhaps less well known, was launched in 1919. France has an older tradition of literary prizes. The Prix Goncourt, possibly the most celebrated, was part of the last will and testament of Edmond de Goncourt in 1896. But what's this? A literary prize aged more than 670 years? The Prix Fabien Artigue de l'Academie des Jean Floreaux goes back to its foundation in 1324 and, I am assured, has been awarded biennially ever since - except for "a short break during the French Revolution". How can I be sure? Because Exeter University tells me so, and it shouId know, because it has just won the prize for a volume of the Exeter French Texts, published annually to provide scholarly academics a glimpse at the rarer literary work of the past. The latest one has been edited by Alan Howe of Liverpool University and contains an early-17th-century play, Phalante by Jean Galaut.
The lady's not for honouring
Oxford University is to confer upon Professor Roman Herzog the degree of Doctor of Civil Laws by Diploma, normally awarded only to heads of state and members of royal families. The decision was this month taken by Congregation, the dons' parliament, and Professor Herzog, who became Federal President two years ago, richly deserves the honour. Other dignitaries to have received it include King Juan Carlos I of Spain (1986), Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan (1991), President Mary Robinson of Ireland (1993), US President Bill Clinton (1994) and South Africa's President Nelson Mandela, last year. Conspicuous, perhaps, by her absence, is one of Oxford's best known alumni - Baroness Thatcher (Somerville College, 1951). She was down for an honorary doctorate in 1985 but, after a surprisingly noisy debate, Congregation gave her the thumbs-down.
I could not help spotting the following in a brochure from the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. It is running some fascinating seminars on a variety of unpeaceful topics, such as religions and war, regional security and military history. I realise I should be the last to tilt a lance, or even a pen, at others' names. However, let us salute some of those on the war studies staff: there is the peaceful head of department, Professor Lawrence Freedman; and the not-so-peaceful lecturers, research fellows and administrators - Joanna Spear, Jane Sharp, Tim Benbow and Anna Bulley. And who is to deliver the special guest lecture - "The Cold War Programme in Europe" - tonight? Why, none other than Professor Wolfgang Krieger.
New Sheriff of Nottingham
Sunday papers did not approach Julie and Alan Sheriff for their story when Mrs Sheriff gave birth to baby Sam at the Queen's Medical Centre, although he was the 500th successful birth with Nurture - the Nottingham University Research and Treatment Unit in Reproduction. It places the unit top of yet another league, that of the patient guide to infertility treatment centres produced by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, with a 23.7 per cent adjusted live birth rate (based on IVF only). This does not include the unit's hi-tech treatment of male infertility, for which the pregnancy rate is 34 per cent.
And finally ...
Randy Banks, computing manager in the Research Centre on Micro-Social Change in Britain, housed at the University of Essex, was taken aback the other day when a letter was addressed to him at the University of Ethics. He thinks the Post Office may have developed a lispReuse content