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Two knights, a spy and Stephen Fry

Sir David McMurtry
Posted 15th Jul 2010 by Chris in awards, sir david mcmurtry, engineering, cardiff university, honorary fellowship, stephen fry

This week Cardiff University has awarded Honorary Fellowships to ten eminent individuals who have achieved international distinction in their respective fields, which range from law and public health to culture and engineering.

Amongst these Honorary Fellows is our own Chairman and Chief Executive, Sir David McMurtry (pictured right), who has been recognised for his contributions to the engineering industry. Despite being a reserved man that does not court publicity, and who is more comfortable sharing his insights with a young engineer in a research laboratory, than making public speeches, Sir David has received recognition across the globe for his achievements.

These include honorary doctorates from other leading engineering-biased UK Universities and fellowships from the Royal Society of Engineering and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. The latter honoured him in 2002 with the James Clayton Prize, which recognises “inventions and imaginative applications devised which have had a huge impact not only within engineering but also in fields such as medicine and sciences.” In 1989 he became a Royal Designer for Industry, in 1994 was made a CBE “for services to Science and Technology”, and in 2001 was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to Design and Innovation” (the latter giving him the title 'Sir').

However, he is so notoriously modest about his achievements that it was only whilst carrying out some research about his career two years ago that I discovered an award about which no-one else in Renishaw seemed to have any knowledge - in 1995 he was apparently awarded the Duncan Davies Memorial Medal by the UK’s Research and Development Society, which is an annual award “to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution toward making the UK the best-performing research and development environment in the world” – so hardly a rosette for a school hurdles race!

But it is perhaps the awards from outside of the UK that are a little bit special.

In the USA his honours include a fellowship from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and an award for the International Contribution to Engineering and Scientific Community. Then in July 2008, he became the first non-US citizen to be honoured as a ‘Master of Manufacturing’ by the official magazine of SME, an award previously given to luminaries such as Joseph Engelberger (‘the father of robotics’) and Richard Morley (‘the father of the programmable logic controller’). When awarding Sir David this honour the magazine’s editor wrote, “Persons who imagine manufacturing to be a dead end should consider McMurtry’s career.  When fashionable athletes and entertainers and politicians have gone into history’s dustbin, the devices and techniques introduced to manufacturing by these Masters will be meeting human needs all over the world."

In 1991, the Japanese magazine News Digest (ND) made him the first non-Japanese winner of their prestigious ND Marketing Award, which until that point had been awarded to leading Japanese industrialists. It is judged by 50 representatives from Japanese manufacturing and academia, whose criteria is “executives of companies whose contribution to Japanese industrial development in the field of equipment for manufacturing production and automation excels in terms of strategic innovation and concrete achieved results.”

But back to Cardiff, where for the first time the award ceremonies have been presided over by the University President Professor, the very eminent Sir Martin Evans, who was the recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Sir David was also in very good company with the other Honorary Fellows, who included Keith Clarke, chief executive of Atkins, one of the world’s largest design companies, another knight of the realm Sir Nicholas Kenyon who is MD of London’s Barbican arts centre, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller who as a former head of MI5 was once Britain’s ‘most senior spy’, and Stephen Fry who these days is perhaps best known for having over 1.6 million followers on Twitter (@stephenfry), where he describes himself as ‘British Actor, Writer, Lord of Dance, Prince of Swimwear & Blogger’.

And before you look, there is no Twitter account for Sir David.