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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 01:08 GMT
Knighthood for UK science adviser
Antarctic ice-capped mountain (Image: SPL)
Professor Dalton visited the Antarctic on a fact-finding mission
Howard Dalton, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has received a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

Professor Dalton, a microbiologist, has been advising ministers on scientific issues, including GM crops, since 2002.

Elsewhere, Dr Colin Hicks, former director-general of the British National Space Centre, has been made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Dr John Bradfield, founder of the UK's first science park, is also knighted.

Professor Dalton, during his time as Defra's chief scientific adviser, has had to brief ministers on a number of headline grabbing issues, with one of the most recent being the arrival of bird flu in the UK.

In 2002, Professor Dalton hit the headline himself when he voiced concern over the potential environmental impact of GM crops.

His views were at odds with the government, which was reported to favour GM crops being grown commercially in the UK.

But the issue that has dominated the political agenda during Professor Dalton's time at Defra is climate change.

In January 2006, he was invited to the Antarctic by the British Antarctic Survey to see for himself the evidence of a warming world.

During his visit he wrote a daily "blog", which was published on Defra's website. In his last entry, he reflected: "There is no doubt on a global level we're not doing enough to tackle climate change.

"But I'm also optimistic about the future, in how science and technology can help us to curb our greenhouse gas emissions and still allow us to live in a modern society," he concluded.

Professor Dalton has been a fellow of the Royal Society since 1993, and is a professor of microbiology at Warwick University.

Titan calling

Another scientist to be recognised for his services to the sector is Colin Hicks, the former director-general of the British National Space Centre (BNSC).

Dr Hicks, who headed the BNSC from 1999 until he retired in May 2006, becomes a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

He told BBC News that he was delighted, yet surprised to receive the honour: "I had retired in May last year... and had assumed that these things had passed me by."

Dr Hicks' science career began in 1970, as a chemistry lecturer at the University of the West Indies. He took up his first civil service post with the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) in 1975 at the National Physical Laboratory.

One of the first pictures of the Huygens probe
Worth the wait - one of the first images of Titan's surface

Looking back over his career, Dr Hicks said one of his most memorable moments was the successful Cassini Huygens mission to Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

In January 2005, Nasa's Cassini spacecraft released the European-built Huygens probe to begin its journey through Titan's volatile atmosphere.

"For eight to 10 hours, we followed its descent into and through the atmosphere," He recalled.

"Then it stopped and there was a pause before the data came through, and we had our hearts in our mouths.

"Finally, the data came through and when we saw the first pictures we realised what dramatic new evidence we had about the atmosphere and the surface of Titan."

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"We said it looked like the Mississippi mudflats, but fortunately we had landed in the right place."

Since his retirement, Dr Hicks has become the president of Eurisy, a Europe-wide independent organisation that champions the benefits space can offer society.

'Silicon Fen'

The founder of the UK's first science park has been made a knight in the New Year honours.

Dr John Bradfield, while senior bursar at Cambridge University's Trinity College, set up the Cambridge Science Park in 1970.

The establishment of the park led to the so-called "Cambridge phenomenon", resulting in hundreds of hi-tech companies being formed in and around the city.

The area is now one of Europe's most important technology centres, and has been nicknamed "Silicon Fen". The knighthood was conferred in recognition of Dr Bradfield's services to science, business and to the community of Cambridge.


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