Hunt: Help passive lives make great contributions to world

Paul Mayne // Western News

As you enter your career, do not forget to cast your eyes toward helping others, University College London professor emeritus Lord Julian Hunt told graduates at the Friday, June 13, afternoon session of Western’s 303rd Convocation.

“Although you are young and fit now,” Hunt said, “I hope you will join others in applying bio and medical engineering research to improve the lives of sick, disabled and elderly people. There are often extraordinary benefits for everyone when such disadvantaged people can turn their lives from being passive, to making great contributions.

“You all have a great future ahead of you, but remember a bit of luck will help as well. There is no formula, but keep a good lookout.”

Hunt spoke to graduates from the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Science at the Friday, June 13, afternoon session of Western’s 303rd Convocation. Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa (DSc), upon Hunt for his distinguished career in meteorology.

During his lecture, Hunt nodded to Western’s proud tradition of Engineering, especially the accomplishments of Alan Davenport and his pioneering wind research.

“(His work) led to elegant new designs of buildings and structures that could withstand great wind forces and they were also planned so people at ground level were not blown off their feet,” Hunt said.

“I had a slight disagreement with the plans from Western about this tall, Canadian building in London called Canary Wharf – where the winds were a bit too much for us feeble Brits. We’re not as robust as Canadians. One of the points of engineering is you must think about the different people involved.”

Prior to becoming professor emeritus of Climate Modelling in the Department of Earth Sciences and Honorary Professor of Mathematics at University College London, Hunt was at the University of Cambridge, where he still holds honorary positions and is a Fellow of Trinity College.

In 1992, he left his role as professor of fluid mechanics Cambridge in order to become director general and chief executive of the Meteorological Office, a position he held for five years.

During that time, Hunt was elected to the executive committee of the World Meteorological Organisation. He was active in negotiating new international arrangements for the exchange of data to ensure that National Meteorological Services worldwide can continue to collaborate with each other, at the same time as encouraging the commercial applications of meteorology worldwide.

Hunt spoke at the United Nations World Conference on the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction in 1994 and on urban problems at Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996. Hunt worked to improve international warnings for disasters, ranging from tropical cyclones to volcanoes.

He was elected chairman of the Informal Conference on West European Directors in 1994-95.

Hunt still holds a number of visiting professorships, including at the Delft University of Technology and Arizona State University. Hunt is the Pierre Fermat Visiting Professor in Toulouse, academic director of the Lighthill Risk Network and deputy director of the Lighthill Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and has honorary degrees from Salford, Bath, East Anglia, Warwick, Grenoble and Uppsala universities.

Together with colleagues at Cambridge, Hunt founded Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants Ltd., a company, which developed environmental software, and, collaboratively, a new air pollution dispersion model, the current standard model for the UK Environment Agency. He has been its chairman since 2001.

In 2000, Hunt was inducted into the House of Lords as Baron Hunt of Chesterton, where he sits as a Labour Peer. He works with legislators all over the world on national and international aspects of climate change legislation through Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment.

In his introduction, Andy Hrymak, Western Engineering dean, called Hunt “a thought leader in the area of climate change.”

Hunt described a future of technological wonders – like the kind “he used to see in comic strips in the 1950s.” But, he warned, these are only tools toward a greater good.

“As technology becomes faster and more convenient, people’s habits and expectations are changing about what can be done with these techniques,” he said. “Social networks now enable individuals or organizations to supplement or question official data by monitoring and reporting on evolving situations in the environment.

“This kind of informal, social information is leading to many lives being saved.”