10 X YRS

Cambridge Timeline

the ages

Discover the wondrous events and discoveries that have taken place in the city of Cambridge and the fascinating people behind the stories.


The University of Cambridge is founded. Granted a royal charter by King Henry III in 1231, the university is the second-oldest in the English-speaking world. Formed of 31 colleges, the University has been home to many of the world’s finest minds.


Having been granted a letters patent by King Henry VIII in 1534, Cambridge University Press is the oldest university press in the world and in 1584 publishes its first book – ‘Two Treatises of the Lord His Holie Supper’. Today, the press publishes over 53,000 titles covering academic research, professional development, research journals and Bibles.


The English poet, John Milton writes the poems, ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ and ‘Epitaph on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare’, while studying at Christ’s College. He would become best known for his blank verse – Paradise Lost – which is considered one of the greatest texts ever written.


One of the university’s most famous alumni, Sir Isaac Newton began his studies at Trinty college in 1661. While in the city, first as a scholar, and later as a fellow, Newton made numerable scientific discoveries, which would change the world, including his theories of calculus, laws of motion and gravity, and research into optics.


William Wordsworth, a student at St John’s, and later author of the poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, completes the first draft of his autobiographical poem known as ‘the Poem to Coleridge’. Later titled ‘The Prelude’, the poem includes a section on his time at St John’s titled ‘Residence at Cambridge’


Alfred Tennyson (later Lord Tennyson) publishes his first solo collection of poems – ‘Poems Chiefly Lyrical’ – while a student at Trinity College. The future poet laureate is best known for his narrative poem ‘The Charge of Light Brigade’, which features the famous phrase: “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die”


Although versions of football have been played since ‘cuju’ was popular in 3rd Century BC, China, the modern version of the game has its routes in Cambridge. In an attempt to unify the code, which differed from area to area, 11 rules were agreed upon, printed and nailed to trees on Parker’s Piece. An adapted version of the ‘Cambridge Rules’ would go on to become the official association rules in 1863.


Founded by William John Beamont, the Cambridge School of Art is opened with an inaugural address by John Ruskin. Later renamed as Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the school of art is still very much at the heart of the modern-day campus.


Although not a work conceived in Cambridge, Christ College alumni, Charles Darwin’s radical book ‘On the Origin of Species’ would change our understanding of evolutionary biology making him one of the most influential figures in human history.


Cavendish Professor of Physics and Trinity alumni, JJ Thomson discovers the electron.


Assistant director of research at the Cavendish Laboratory, James Chadwick discovered the neutron.


Alan Turing produces designs for ACE., the world’s first digital computer. Now widely considered the father of computer science, Turing is perhaps most famous for his work on the Bombe, the electromechanical machine that would break the German Enigma code.


Researchers at the Cavendish Laboratory, Francis Crick and James Watson, interrupt lunchtime at The Eagle pub to announce they have ‘discovered the secret of life’ – the discovery of the DNA double helix


Poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes meet and later live together in Cambridge – a time Hughes wrote about in the unpublished verse which begins ‘Cambridge was our courtship’


The Bourn Hall Clinic is founded by IVF pioneers, Professor Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy, twelve years after they first fertilised an egg in a laboratory


“The Cellar Tapes”, the 1981 Cambridge Footlights revue is broadcast on television – featuring early appearances by Cambridge students, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Emma Thompson


The webcam is invented by computer scientists Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Paul Jardetzky at the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge. Known as the Trojan Room coffee pot, its purpose was to allow people working in the building to see if the coffee machine was full, avoiding long journeys down several flights of stairs only to find an empty pot!


Honorary fellow and former student of Trinity College, Antony Gormley creates Earthbound: Plant (2002), a life-size sculpture of the human form, which is buried upside down in front of the MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research


A piece of public art, the Corpus Clock is a large sculptural clock located on the outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. Conceived and funded by John C. Taylor, and officially unveiled by Professor Stephen Hawking, the clock has no hands, but displays the time through slits and blue LEDs to represent hours, minutes and seconds. Intriguingly, the clock is entirley accurate only once every five minutes, symbolising life’s “irregularity”


Jesus College undergraduates Grace Chatto, Jack Patterson, Luke Patterson and Neil Amin-Smith form the band, Clean Bandit


Cambridge Independent newspaper launched, the only regional newspaper in the UK to be saddle-stitched and feature full-width images


Image credits:

King’s College Chapel – Photo by Jean-Luc Benazet on Unsplash; Cambridge University PressCmdcam01, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; John Milton, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin – Illustrations by Gordon Johnson on Pixabay; William WordsworthWilliam Shuter., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Alfred TennysonGeorge Frederic Watts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; 1848 Cambridge Rules – Photo by Karen Cann on Unsplash; ARUMohammed Tawsif Salam, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; JJ Thomson – Public Domain, Link; Neutron – Illustration by Tomislav Jakupec on Pixabay; Alan TuringUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; DNA – Illustration by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay; Ted Hughes and Sylvia PlathCC BY 2.0) by summonedbyfells; IVFDrKontogianniIVF, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons; ADC TheatreCC BY-SA 2.0, Link; Trojan Room Coffee Pot – By Quentin Stafford-Fraser, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link; Earthbound Plant -“Earthbound Plant” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by Leo Reynolds; Corpus ClockThe Chronophage – CC BY 2.0 by Matt From London; Clean BanditJustin Higuchi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.