Cambridge University History

Cambridge University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. It has a fascinating history that spans hundreds of years. In today’s guide we shall take a look into Cambridge University of the past and present.

About Cambridge University History

Cambridge University has a rich history that continues to fascinate people all around the world today. Not only is the university’s academic history interesting but the buildings that make up the campus are some of the most beautiful in the United Kingdom. The university itself dates back to 1209 and the buildings have been built during various time periods.

The academic achievements of Cambridge University’s scholars are recognised around the world and it has always been notoriously difficult to gain a place there.

Early Cambridge University

As we mentioned before, Cambridge University dates back to the early 13th century. In 1231, King Henry III of England awarded the university with a ‘ius non trahi extra’, meaning a right to discipline its own members as well as some exemptions from taxes. This enhanced early Cambridge and helped it to grow and become what it is today.

Cambridge University is well known for its prestigious colleges that make up the university as a whole. However, the college system has slowly grown and become established over the centuries – with the most recent college being added in March 2010.

The first colleges were founded during the medieval era as a place for students to pray for the souls of the founders. During these times, the university was teaching scholastic philosophy, which was banned in 1536 by King Henry VIII and instead classics, the Bible and mathematics was taught.

As well as moving away from Canon Law, it also moved away from Catholicism and into Lutheranism. Over the centuries there were several religious upheavals that saw massive changes in the basis of the university.

Cambridge University was originally only open to male students. In 1869, the first women’s college – Girton College – was opened; this was quickly followed by Newnham College in 1872.

Cambridge University post-1945

Since 1945, Cambridge University has grown in many ways. The reputation of the university became even stronger around the world – as an increasing amount of scholars were making world-changing discoveries such as the splitting of the atom, the discovery of hydrogen and the Charles Darwins’ ‘Theory of Evolution’.

After World War II, Cambridge University started to increase its study options and a wider range of courses were available for students. While it still was and is best known for the study of mathematics, Cambridge University started to add courses such as drama and music.

Although Cambridge University allowed women to study there from 1869, it wasn’t until 1947 that women were considered to be full members of the university. Women were only allowed to be admitted to female colleges – of which these were limited – but this changed in 1972 when the male colleges began to allow females to join.

Famous Cambridge University Graduates

Cambridge University has had some of the most influential people in the world graduate through its doors.

There have been more Nobel Prize winners from Cambridge University than any other university in the world – with 61 in total.

Although there are notable graduates in all fields of study at the university, Cambridge graduates are best renowned in the fields of mathematics and science. Potentially the most famous Cambridge University graduate is Sir Isaac Newton – who spent the majority of his career at the university. Other famous science graduates include: Henry Cavendish, Stephen Hawking, Frank Whittle, Charles Darwin, John Wallis and Sir Michael Atiyah.

Many of the world’s most popular writers also attended Cambridge University, including: E.M. Forster, C.S. Lewis, J.B. Priestley, A.A. Milne, Lawrence Stern, Nick Hornby and Iris Murdoch.

It is not just academics that have had an impact on the world after graduating from Cambridge University. A huge number of popular actors and actresses over the years also went there, such as: John Cleese, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Michael Redgrave, Rachel Weisz, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Lord Richard Attenborough.

In addition, fifteen British Prime Ministers attended Cambridge University including the country’s first Prime Minister – Robert Walpole.

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