Barbara Cannon elected as new President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS) has appointed Professor Barbara Cannon as President, starting on 1 July 2012 for a period of three years.

Barbara Cannon, born in 1946 in the United Kingdom, is Professor of physiology. Between 1985 and 2010 she was Director of the Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University, where she still works. As a British citizen she is a foreign member of the Academy, elected in 1989. She has for the past decades had more than 30 high-ranking positions and honorary tasks in the scientific community, both in Scandinavia and in Europe. Among others, she was Chairman of the Nobel Foundation’s council for three years (2009–2011).

For some 40 years Barbara Cannon’s research has focussed on the function of brown adipose tissue. It is the most important organ for heat production in mammals. Previously, the perception was that brown adipose tissue only exists in small mammals, but it is now established that it is also found in adult humans. It is therefore of great interest to understand how it affects our metabolism and our tendency to develop obesity. The potential for new drugs in this area is a significant issue today for pharmaceutical companies. A new unexpected insight that emerged from her research is that brown adipose tissue is not related to white adipose tissue, but rather originates from the same kind of cells as muscle tissue.

– As the new President, I see the Academy’s motto For posterity – and the vignette that shows the planting of the tree of future knowledge – as the essence of the Academy’s and thus of my role. Currently, when short-term benefits of science and rapid transfer of practically useful results are constantly emphasized as goals, the Academy must continually stress “the unexpected benefit” of science that only much later may improve the world or the function of which is simply to provide us with greater understanding of the nature of matter, says Barbara Cannon.

Barbara Cannon takes up the post as President on 1 July 2012.

Who is the President?

The President is the Academy’s main representative. The President presides at the Academy’s General meetings and is assisted by three Vice-Presidents, all elected to their honorary positions for a certain time. These four persons, along with the full-time employed Permanent Secretary, constitute the Academy’s Presiding Committee. The Academy’s first president was Carl Linnæus.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines. 


Barbara Cannon
Professor of physiology
Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University
+46-8-164120, +46-70-7500198

Erik Huss
Press Officer, RSAS
+46-8-6739544, +46-70-6739650