What could Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Byron and Charles Darwin have in common? The answer is that, apart from being amongst the greatest minds humanity has produced, they all attended the University of Cambridge.
Universally regarded as one of the best and most prestigious centres of learning in the world, Cambridge University is also one of the oldest, having been founded as long ago as 1209.
Tradition has it that its foundation is tied up with the history of another famous university whose competition with Cambridge is famous, namely that of Oxford. The university grew out of an association of scholars who had left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townspeople.
The professors and students belong to a restricted group of people who have, over the centuries, played a large part in the writing the history of the world we inhabit. It is no coincidence that no fewer than 107 Nobel prizewinners have come from Cambridge – the largest number for any university.
The quality of teaching in Cambridge is, moreover, rivalled by the beauty of the place itself. The university is centrally located in the town of Cambridge, about 80 kilometres north-east of London, whose atmosphere could be described as idyllic.
It consists of 31 semi-independent colleges offering views of splendid parks, wonderful courtyards and suggestive glimpses of the River Cam, from which the town takes its name and which offers a fine location for punts – the boats typical of the place – and is home to the university’s famous rowing team.
The architecture here varies much, in accordance with the historical period in which individual buildings were erected, but it is not too much of a generalisation to say that the dominant style is gothic, the greatest example being King’s College Chapel.
Work on the chapel was begun by Henry VI in 1446 and was completed about 100 years later. It has the largest fan vault in the world and some of the finest medieval stained glass.
While many of Cambridge’s famous alumni were no doubt born geniuses, one thing remains clear. Being able to study in such surroundings brings out the best in us. And anyone lucky enough to be born a genius will be ready for inclusion in the history books after completing a period of study at Cambridge University.
Cambridge, November 2018