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Cambridge University Oxford University

Cambridge University is the second oldest - after Oxford - in Britain. The university has 31 colleges (see the list of colleges). In 2009 the university celebrated its 800 year anniversary.

The colleges
The origins of Cambridge University date back to the arrival of former students of Oxford University in 1209 but it wasn't until 1284 that the first college - Peterhouse - was founded. By the end of the 16th century another fifteen colleges had been established and then - in the 19th and 20th centuries - fifteen more.

As with Oxford, Cambridge University - especially its older established colleges - has seen many of its students go on to achieve notable things.

No degree
But a successful completion of their studies was not always necessary for former students to achieve success in life. The Poet Laureates Thomas Shadwell
and Alfred Tennyson, the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Siegfried Sassoon and the writers William Makepeace Thackeray and Christopher Isherwood all left Cambridge without a degree. A degree also eluded Edward VII, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Britain's first Prime Minister Robert Walpole and the chemist Henry Cavendish (whose descendants endowed the university's world-famous Cavendish Laboratory).

It wasn't until
Girton College (1869) and Newnham College (1871) opened that women were finally admitted to Cambridge. Since then graduates have included the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize, Dorothy Hodgkin; the poet Sylvia Plath, the ethologist Jane Goodall and the writer Iris Murdoch.

The following list shows the thirty-one colleges, grouped by the century in which they were founded.

The colleges founded before the 18th century include information on a selection of famous people who have been connected to the college and links to the college website and its history webpage.

The colleges founded since 1800 have links to their websites.

The 31 Cambridge Colleges


13th century


Founded: 1284

14th century


Clare College
Founded: 1326

Pembroke College
Founded: 1347

Gonville & Caius College
Founded: 1348

Trinity Hall
Founded: 1350

Corpus Christi College
Founded: 1352

15th century


Magdalene College
Founded: 1428

King's College
Founded: 1441

Queens' College
Founded: 1448

St Catharine's College
Founded: 1473

Jesus College
Founded: 1496

16th century


Christ's College
Founded: 1505

St John's College
Founded: 1511

Trinity College
Founded: 1546

Emmanuel College
Founded: 1584

Sidney Sussex College
Founded: 1596

19th century

Downing College
Founded: 1800

Girton College
Founded: 1869

Fitzwilliam College
Founded: 1869

Newnham College
Founded: 1871

Selwyn College
Founded: 1882

Hughes Hall
Founded: 1885

St Edmund's College
Founded: 1896

20th century

Murray Edwards College
Founded (as New Hall): 1954

Churchill College
Founded: 1960

Darwin College
Founded: 1964

Lucy Cavendish College
Founded: 1965

Clare Hall
Founded: 1965

Wolfson College
Founded: 1965

Homerton College
Founded: 1976

Robinson College
Founded: 1979

16th century
Christ's College A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Christ's College was founded in 1505 by Lady Margaret Beaufort the mother of
Henry VII. It was created out of Gods-House a school which had taught grammar school masters since 1437.


Inventors and Scientists

Charles Darwin Scientist
Undergraduate, 1828-31 MA, 1836

J. Robert Oppenheimer Nuclear physicist. Head of the Manhattan Project
Having graduated from Harvard Oppenheimer spent a year at Cambridge

Nobel Prize Winners

Martin J. Evans Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 2007
Undergraduate, 1960-63 MA, 1966

Writers and Poets

John Milton Writer
Undergraduate, 1625-28 MA, 1632

St John's College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

St John's College was founded in 1511 by the executors of the will of Lady Margaret Beaufort - the mother of
Henry VII - who had died in 1509. The college was created from the ancient hospital of St John the Evangelist which had stood on the site since around 1200.


Famous People

William Wilberforce Social reformer
Undergraduate, 1776-81 MA, 1788

Nobel Prize Winners

Edward Appleton Nobel Prize for Physics, 1947
Undergraduate, 1911-14
Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy, 1936-39
See Trinity College

John Cockcroft Nobel Prize for Physics, 1951
Undergraduate, 1922-24 Fellow, 1928-46
Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy, 1939-46

Nevill F. Mott Nobel Prize for Physics, 1977
Undergraduate, 1924-27 MA, 1930
Cavendish Professor of Physics, 1954-71
See Gonville & Caius College

P.A.M. Dirac Nobel Prize for Physics, 1933
Fellow, 1927-69
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, 1932-69

Frederick Sanger Double Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1958 and 1980
Undergraduate, 1936-39
See Kings College

Maurice Wilkins Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1962
Undergraduate, 1935-38

Abdus Salam Nobel Prize for Physics, 1979
Undergraduate, 1946-49 Fellow, 1951-56

Prime Ministers

Marquess of Rockingham Prime Minister of Britain, 1765-66 and 1782

Viscount Goderich Prime Minister of Britain, 1827-28
Undergraduate, 1800-02 MA

Earl of Aberdeen Prime Minister of Britain, 1852-55
Undergraduate, 1800-04 MA

Viscount Palmerston Prime Minister of Britain, 1855-58 and 1859-65
Undergraduate, 1803-06 MA

Writers and Poets

William Wordsworth Poet laureate, 1843-50
Undergraduate, 1787-91

Trinity College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Trinity College - the largest at Cambridge- was founded in 1546 by
Henry VIII. Two earlier institutions were combined to form the new college: Michaelhouse (founded 1324) and King's Hall (founded 1317).

Thirty-two students from the college have gone on to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Notable Alumni


Ralph Vaughan Williams Composer
Undergraduate, 1892-95

Famous People

Francis Bacon Philosopher
Undergraduate, 1573-75

Jawaharlal Nehru First Prime Minister of India, 1947-64
Undergraduate, 1907-10

Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosopher
Undergraduate, 1912-13 Fellow, 1929-
Professor of Philosophy, 1939-47
Wittgenstein was only able to take up his post as professor in 1945 due to WW2

Anthony Blunt Cambridge spy
Undergraduate, 1926-30 Fellow, 1932-37 Slade Professor of Fine Art, 1965

Kim Philby Cambridge spy
Undergraduate, 1929-33

Guy Burgess Cambridge spy
Undergraduate, 1930-33

John Cairncross Cambridge spy
Undergraduate, 1934-36

Rajiv Gandhi Prime Minister of India, 1984-89
Undergraduate, 1963- No degree

Inventors and Scientists

Isaac Newton Scientist. Mathematician
Undergraduate, 1661-65 MA, 1668 Fellow, 1667-96
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, 1669-1702

Charles Babbage Mathematician. Computer pioneer
Undergraduate, 1810-12
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, 1828-39
In 1812 Babbage transferred his studies to Peterhouse

William Henry Fox Talbot Photography pioneer
Undergraduate, 1817-21 MA, 1825


Edward VII King of Britain, 1901-10
Undergraduate, 1861 No degree

George VI King of Britain, 1936-52
Undergraduate, 1919-20

Charles III King of Britain, from 2022
Undergraduate, 1967-70

Nobel Prize Winners

Thirty-two students from the college have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize Winners

Prime Ministers

Spencer Perceval Prime Minister of Britain, 1809-12
Undergraduate MA, 1782

Earl Grey Prime Minister of Britain, 1830-34
Undergraduate, 1781-84 No degree

Viscount Melbourne Prime Minister of Britain, 1834 and 1835-41

Henry Campbell-Bannerman Prime Minister of Britain, 1905-08
Undergraduate, 1854-58

Arthur James Balfour Prime Minister of Britain, 1902-05
Undergraduate, 1866-69

Stanley Baldwin Prime Minister of Britain, 1923-24, 1924-29 and 1935-37
Undergraduate, -1888 MA, 1892

Writers and Poets

John Dryden Poet laureate, 1668-88
Undergraduate, 1650-54

Lawrence Eusden Poet laureate, 1718-30
Undergraduate Fellow

Lord Byron Poet
Undergraduate, 1805-07 MA, 1808

Alfred Tennyson Poet laureate, 1850-92
Undergraduate, 1828-31 No degree

William Makepeace Thackeray Writer
Undergraduate, 1829-30 No degree

A.A. Milne Writer
Undergraduate, 1900-03

Vladimir Nabokov Writer
Undergraduate, 1920-23

Emmanuel College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Founded in 1584 on the site of a former Dominican priory, Emmanuel College was set up by Sir Walter Mildmay with the aim of providing education to Protestant preachers.


Famous People

John Harvard Founder of Harvard University, USA
Undergraduate, 1627-32 MA, 1635

Nobel Prize Winners

Frederick Hopkins Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1929
Professor of Biochemistry, 1914-43
See Trinity College

Ronald G.W. Norrish Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1967
Undergraduate, 1919-21 Fellow, 1924-31
Professor of Physical Chemistry, 1937-65

George Porter Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1967
Fellow, 1951-54

Sidney Sussex College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Sidney Sussex College was founded in 1596 by the executors of the will of Lady Frances Sidney who had died seven years earlier.


Famous People

Oliver Cromwell Soldier. Statesman
Undergraduate, 1616-17 No degree
On Cromwell's death in 1658 he was buried in Westminster Abbey but after the Restoration (of the monarchy to power) in 1660 his body was exhumed and "beheaded". The burial place of his body remains unknown but in 1960 his head was laid to rest near the chapel of his former college

Nobel Prize Winners

Charles Wilson Nobel Prize for Physics, 1927
Undergraduate, 1888-92 Fellow, 1900-34
Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy, 1925-34

Cecil Powell Nobel Prize for Physics, 1950
Undergraduate, 1924-25

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