The University of Oxford is delighted to announce the endowment of two important academic posts based within the Humanities Division, thanks to generous philanthropic support from an anonymous benefactor. Following a gift of £4.8 million, a chair in linguistics and another specialising in the history of science have been secured in perpetuity.

Professor Aditi Lahiri, painted by artist Rosalie Watkins

Professor Aditi Lahiri

The Chair of Linguistics is currently held by Professor Aditi Lahiri, an expert on phonology, historical linguistics and neurolinguistics. Following the creation of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics in 2008, Professor Lahiri became the first Director of its Language and Brain Laboratory, where she runs an innovative programme of research that sits at the interface of historical, theoretical and experimental linguistics.

Given her multi-disciplinary approach to the study of language, Professor Lahiri frequently collaborates with neurologists, computer scientists and engineers in order to answer complex linguistic questions. Most recently, her research has led to the creation of FlexSR, an innovative mobile-based automatic speech-recognition system with the potential to revolutionise the sector thanks to its theoretically informed technological simplicity.

The donor's gift of £2.4 million towards the chair has been boosted with £1.2 million in matched funding from Oxford University Press, thus enabling the permanent endowment of the post. While continuing to support the faculty's diverse research agenda, Professor Lahiri will now be able to spend more time pursuing her own pioneering work, for which she has received some of the world's most prestigious academic awards.

'Linguistics has been studied extensively at Oxford since the middle ages and continues to grow in strength in the 21st century,' says Professor Lahiri. 'The wonderful donation is of exceptional importance to allow us to maintain the intellectual freedom and extend the research goals of the vibrant linguistics community. We will be able to continue to expose generations of students to the wonders of language structure and language history.'

Professor Rob Iliffe

Professor Rob Iliffe

The same anonymous benefactor has also endowed the Chair of the History of Science. The gift of £2.4 million towards the post has also resulted in the release of £1.2 million in matched funding from Oxford University Press.

Professor Rob Iliffe was appointed to the chair in 2016. He has a specialist interest in the history of early modern science and technology, and in the history of the relations between science and religion. He has published widely on the life and work of Isaac Newton, and is a co-director of the online Newton Project, a pioneering digital edition of Newton's papers.

Based within the Faculty of History, Professor Iliffe co-directs the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology, which he founded last year in order to build teaching and research capacity of the numerous historians working in this specialist field.

Following the permanent endowment of the chair, Professor Iliffe will be able to devote more time to his own research projects. It will also support his own efforts, and those of colleagues in the history of medicine at the Museum for the History of Science, to make Oxford a major world centre for studying the history of science and technology.

Professor Iliffe says: 'The history of science and technology is a thriving discipline that is uniquely able to span the boundaries between the humanities and the sciences. The University of Oxford was a pioneer in teaching the subject, and it remains a highly popular option for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The extraordinarily generous endowment of the chair will allow us to increase the amount of world-class research in the area, and it will enable us to extend the provision of the subject across the University.'