'He famously offered readers his car to go and visit Durham'

April 8, 2005

Bestselling author Bill Bryson has been appointed 11th chancellor of Durham University

In one of Bill Bryson's best-known works, Notes from a Small Island , his account of touring round Britain, he wrote that on arriving in Durham, he "fell in love with it instantly in a serious way", famously offering readers his car to go and visit the city.

Last year, Durham University awarded him an honorary doctor of civil law and he becomes chancellor as it prepares to celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2007.

Bryson's books also observe life in North America, Europe and Australia, and he recently travelled to Kenya with sustainable development charity CARE International. (His resultant African Diary has so far raised more than £280,000 for the charity.) Last year, A Short History of Nearly Everything won him a Royal Society Aventis Prize for science writing.

Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa. As a teenager, he wrote newspaper reports on wrestling. He interrupted a political science degree at Drake University to go backpacking in Europe and ended up working in a psychiatric hospital in London for two years. While in London he met future wife, Cynthia Billen, a student nurse. He returned to Drake in 1975, completing his degree while working as a copy editor for the Des Moines Tribune . After graduating, he returned to the UK, working first as a sub-editor on a Bournemouth newspaper before moving to The Times .

Responding to earlier rumours that former US President Bill Clinton would be Durham's next chancellor, Bryson said: "I think he will be very good for it - as long as you keep him away from the interns."

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