Local News

Duke Professor Honored by Queen of England

Posted January 7, 2008

 Duke University

— A Duke University professor was recently recognized by the Queen of England as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The award cited his “services to science and education.”

“It’s very humbling to be recognized in this unexpected way,” said Arlie Petters, a professor of mathematics and physics from the British Commonwealth nation of Belize in Central America.

At Duke, Petters’ research involves developing mathematical equations to describe how light interacts with cosmic entities such as black holes. He also runs university programs that encourage under-represented minorities to pursue careers in mathematics and science.

In his native Belize, he leads the Petters Research Institute, which trains students in mathematics, the sciences and technology.

“Our institute is serving as a catalyst in Belize to promote a new track of economic growth through high-tech industries,” he said. “I think people recognize the importance of having industries that draw upon the intellectual capital of the nation.”

Petters was one of 972 citizens in the British Commonwealth to be given an honorary award on the new year. The awards include the Knight Grand Cross and Knight Commander, which confer the title “Sir” and have their origins in the Middle Ages.

Petters’ Member of British Empire award is the most common of the honorary awards and is given for hands-on service to a local community.


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  • CaptainSpleen Jan 7, 2008

    MBE doesn't give you knighthood, and knighthood doesn't confer royalty, so that's not a problem.

    There are five ranks to the Order of the British Empire: Knight Grand Cross, Knight Commander, Commander, Officer, and Member. The first two make you a knight. If you're granted Knighthood and you're from a country that has the King/Queen of England as its head of state, you can add the title "Sir" to the beginning of your name. If you're not from one of those countries, then you can only add GBE/KBE after your name. The last three ranks don't confer knighthood, but you can still add the titles after your name. So now he can sign all his letters "Arlie Petters, M.B.E."

  • dnguyen68 Jan 7, 2008

    "Isnt there an old law I cant remember correctly but you cant be U.S. Citizen and have a royal title or rewarded a title. I cant really remember how to quote it."

    That's Knighthood/Sir . Only British citizens are given the title Sir. Elton John was given the title Sir and former president Bill Clinton was given the title Knighthood by the Queen.

  • farkle80 Jan 7, 2008

    He is a US citizen, but he may have kept his Belizean citizenship as well.

  • FragmentFour Jan 7, 2008

    I can"t really remember how to quote it.--Cable

    You did a pretty good job. In essence, that's exactly what the law said - and still says.

  • Cable Jan 7, 2008

    Yes I know he isnt a U.S. citizen. I just trying to remember the law.

  • Cable Jan 7, 2008

    Isnt there an old law I cant remember correctly but you cant be U.S. Citizen and have a royal title or rewarded a title. I cant really remember how to quote it.

  • mrr03 Jan 7, 2008

    Right on Professor !!

  • mayor Jan 7, 2008