I was surprised to receive a letter from the University of Cambridge telling me that they are awarding me a Master of Mathematics degree. Or it might be a Master of Advanced Study – the distinction they make is ambiguous. One way or the other, I qualify for the Retrospective Award of Masters Degrees for Part III Mathematics.
To be honest, this feels like a bit of a joke. The studies I did were indeed at a master’s degree level, including a dissertation, but there was no formal award at the end. The applied mathematics I studied was really more theoretical physics, following on from my undergraduate studies in physics. But all this was over 30 years ago. The last time I looked at the dissertation I could hardly understand a word in it, let alone an equation. Even its title means little to me now – something about particles that could in theory exist in imaginary time.
However, this is a reminder to me that it was on this course that, as I wrote here several years ago, I studied under Prof John Polkinghorne. That was just before Polkinghorne left the academic world to train as an Anglican priest – and before he returned to that world as an expert on the relationship of science and faith. Polkinghorne’s example partly inspired me also to leave the academic world and follow God’s calling, which was at first into a job in industry.
I don’t think I will be returning to Cambridge to pick up my new master’s degree in person. I already have an MA in Theology, from London Bible College (now London School of Theology).