At a ceremony at Merton College on Thursday 15 February 2018, Dr Peter Braam signed a confirmation of the establishment of the Peter Braam Bequest, which will enable a major new programme of research focusing on Human Wellbeing. Peter, a former Junior Research Fellow at Merton who describes himself as a multidisciplinary innovator covering computing, data and science, pledged to leave a significant legacy to the College to enable "the use of research, regardless of which academic disciplines are used, to improve countless lives on the planet."
The Braam Bequest will support the creation of a series of Early Career Fellowships. These will be based at Merton as well as at other colleges and departments within the University of Oxford, with the programme of research being guided by a Senior Research Fellow and overseen by a committee led by members of Merton’s Governing Body, effectively a small research council.
The Founders of the programme were guided by the critical need to apply research to problems of Global Wellbeing and seek to "[apply] knowledge - drawn from all academic fields of study - to improve the human situation, ... especially the needs of the poorest or least privileged societies or segments of humanity." This cross-disciplinary approach to research is very much a feature of the environment of Merton, and the College’s history of continuity and stability as well as Peter's experiences in Oxford provided the Braam family with the confidence that Merton will be a good and trustworthy steward of this important Bequest.
Speaking at the ceremony, Peter explained:
"A deep immersion in your truly wonderful university and college system and your respect for academic freedom can influence a person for a lifetime. It has influenced me and many others more successful than I have been. It will continue to inspire others.
"The College can discern and articulate key research areas, in almost any subject. Moreover, it has over the hundreds of years attracted world class talent to work in these areas. Perhaps through its history, it creates a self-reinforcing system to make appointed individuals unusually effective.
"I ask you to embrace this success and I want to thank you for providing this collective thinking power and intellectual resonance to drive research in Human Wellbeing."
Peter has already worked with the College in establishing the Peter Braam Junior Research Fellowship in Global Wellbeing, currently held by Dr Kate Orkin, and the Peter Braam Graduate Scholarship. The College is immensely grateful to Peter and his family for their quite extraordinary generosity in making this Bequest.
The Warden, Sir Martin Taylor, speaking at the ceremony, said:
"This gift will be of very great benefit to Merton, the University and the world. It is a visionary programme which has the ability to have a massive impact on problems that can change people’s lives."