Sunday, 16 March 2014


I spent this weekend at Cambridge University for a History conference. Of course, being the history nerd I am, I loved it. I will blog some time later this week about the lectures I had and some of the interesting stuff I learnt. Next week I'm going to a Law conference at Cambridge, so I won't be able to blog much, apologises in advance! Today I've decided to blog about the history of Cambridge University itself.

The university was established in 1209 when groups of scholars used to congregate at the ancient Roman trading post of Cambridge for the
purpose of study. In 1284 Peterhouse, the first college at Cambridge, was founded by the Bishop of Ely. In 1347 Mary, Countess of Pembroke, founded Pembroke College. In 1503 Thomas Cranmer, aged 14, joined the newly-endowed Jesus College; he left in 1533 to become the first post-reformation Archbishop of Canterbury. While in the post, he annuls Henry VIII's marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn and divorces him from Anne of Cleves. He is also largely responsible for the Book of Common Prayer, the official directory of worship of the Church of England. In 1511 Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, founded St John's College.

In 1546 Henry VIII founded Trinity College and in 1584 The Cambridge University Press, the world's oldest-established press, began its unbroken record of publishing every year until present. In 1628 William Harvey of Gonville and Caius College, published his celebrated treatise, 'De motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus', (On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals), describing his discovery of the mechanism of blood circulation and in 1687 Isaac Newton published 'Principia Mathematica', establishing the fundamental principles of modern physics.

In 1784 The Rt Hon William Pitt of Pembroke was elected MP for the University at the age of 25, a year after becoming Prime Minister. 1829 saw the staging of the first Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford, won by Oxford. In 1897 J.J. Thomson, Cavendish Professor of Physics, discovered the electron, laying the foundations for the whole of modern physics, including electronics and computer technology. In following years, inventors used his work to develop new devices such as the telephone, radio and television. Two years later,Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf and Thoby Stephen met as under-graduates at Trinity and formed the nucleus of what was to become known as the Bloomsbury Group.

In 1953 Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA, unlocking the secret of how coded information is contained in living cells and passed from one generation to the next - the secret of life. Their discovery opened the door to the study of an entirely new science - genetics. Since 1904, three years after the Alfred Nobel established the Nobel Prize, 90 affiliates of the University of Cambridge have won the Nobel Prize since 1904, winning in every category, with 29 Nobel prizes in Physics, 26 in Medicine, 21 in Chemistry, nine in Economics, two in Literature and two in Peace. Trinity College has 32 Nobel Prize winners, the most of any college at Cambridge. Dorothy Hodgkin is the first woman from Cambridge to win a Nobel Prize, for her work on the structure of compounds used in fighting anaemia.

In 2009 The University of Cambridge celebrates its 800th anniversary, and today it still remains one of the most prestigious universities in the world, a place of great research and learning and, most importantly, a really pretty city which makes for a great day out!