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Prince’s election to Royal Society triggers row

Britain: Duke of York chosen as Fellow with 11% of vote; Angry Scientists say the ballot allowed them to vote ‘yes’ only.

Written by Press Trust Of India | London |
May 6, 2013 1:40:23 am

A section of Britain’s leading scientists have revolted against the election of Prince Andrew as a fellow of the Royal Society,voicing their concern over his “over-colourful” past and lack of a scientific background.

The scientists have objected to the Royal Society’s use of a ballot paper that only allowed them to vote “yes”,The Sunday Times reported. The report said the Duke of York was elected with just 11 per cent of the vote,following a huge number of abstentions.

The objectors have told Sir Paul Nurse,the society’s President,that they oppose the choice of Andrew and the way the election was conducted. Lord May,a former president said he was dismayed by the handling of the vote. “This is not the way to run an election. A ballot where you can only say yes is a bad idea and should be changed.” While Lord May supported the society’s association with royalty,others want the links to be reduced.

“My immediate reaction when I heard the Royal Society council had ratified this was shock,” said Peter Lawrence,professor of molecular biology at Cambridge University. “The indiscriminate election of royal fellows,and it seems to me this case offers strong evidence of lack of discrimination,can only harm the reputation of the Royal Society,” he added.

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According to the report,the rebellion is being led by David Colquhoun,a fellow and professor of pharmacology at University College London. He told Sir Nurse that he was opposed not only to the prince’s election but to the whole system of electing royalty as fellows. “The Royal Society was founded to advocate the idea that science is what matters,not deference to authority. The exception to that seems to be deference to ‘royal blood’,but it is taking deference too far to elect Prince Andrew,” he said.

In a blog,Colquhoun pointed to a series of controversies involving the Duke including the sale of Sunninghill Park,his former home,to Timur Kulibayev,the son-in-law of Nursultan Nazarbayev,the Kazakh president. The property was sold for £15 million ,at least £3 million above the asking price.

Responding to the claim Sir Nurse said,“The Duke of York is beloved by the tabloids but he has always had a robust defence in these issues. I think David is quite wrong to raise that.” Sir Nurse accepted the voting system was “an anachronism” which had to be changed.

Andrew’s election gives him a place alongside scientific luminaries such as Stephen Hawking,Sir Tim Berners-Lee,the inventor of the world wide web,and Sir John Sulston,who oversaw the human genome project.

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