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The University of Cambridge

English: Trinity College graduands entering th...
 Trinity College graduands entering the Senate House during a University of Cambridge graduation ceremony.
The University of Cambridge (informally known as "Cambridge University" or simply as "Cambridge") is a public research university located in Cambridge, England, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world (after the University of Oxford), and the third-oldest surviving university in the world. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.[5]
The institute grew out of an association of scholars that was formed in 1209, early records suggest, by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk.[6] The two "ancient universities" have many common features and are often jointly referred to as Oxbridge.
Today, Cambridge is a collegiate university with 31 colleges and six academic schools. All these university institutions occupy different locations in the town including purposely-built sites and the student life is found in the arts, sport clubs and societies. Cambridge is also a member of many academic associations and forms part of the 'golden triangle' of British universities.[7]
A total of 89 Nobel Prizes winners are affiliates of the university


The official founding of Cambridge University is traced to the enhancement, by a charter in 1231 from King Henry III of England, which awarded the ius non trahi extra (a right to discipline its own members) plus some exemption from taxes, and a bull in 1233 from Pope Gregory IX that gave graduates from Cambridge the right to teach "everywhere in Christendom".[10]After Cambridge was described as a studium generale in a letter by Pope Nicholas IV in 1290,[11] and confirmed as such in a bull by Pope John XXII in 1318,[12] it became common for researchers from other European medieval universities to visit Cambridge to study or to give lecture courses.[11]

Foundation of the colleges

The colleges at the University of Cambridge were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments, called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries, but they have left some indicators of their time, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.[13]Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely, founded Peterhouse in 1284, Cambridge's first college. Many colleges were founded during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but colleges continued to be established throughout the centuries to modern times, although there was a gap of 204 years between the founding of Sidney Sussex in 1596 and Downing in 1800. The most recently established college is Robinson, built in the late 1970s. However, Homerton College only achieved full university college status in March 2010, making it the newest full college (it was previously an "Approved Society" affiliated with the university).
In medieval times, many colleges were founded so that their members would pray for the souls of the founders, and were often associated with chapels or abbeys. A change in the colleges' focus occurred in 1536 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. King Henry VIII ordered the university to disband its Faculty of Canon Law[14] and to stop teaching "scholastic philosophy". In response, colleges changed their curricula away from canon law, and towards the classics, the Bible, and mathematics.
As Cambridge moved away from Canon Law, it also moved away from Catholicism. As early as the 1520s, Lutheranism and what was to become more broadly known as the Protestant Reformation were making their presence felt in the intellectual discourse of the university. Among those involved was Thomas Cranmer, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury.
As it became convenient to Henry VIII in the 1530s, the King looked to Cranmer and others (within and without Cambridge) to craft a new path that was different from Catholicism yet also different from what Martin Luther had in mind. Nearly a century later, the university was at the centre of a Protestant schism. Many nobles, intellectuals and even common folk saw the ways of the Church of England as being too similar to the Catholic Church and that it was used by the crown to usurp the rightful powers of the counties. East Anglia was the centre of what became the Puritan movement and at Cambridge, it was particularly strong at Emmanuel, St Catharine's Hall, Sidney Sussex and Christ's College.[15] They produced many "non-conformist" graduates who greatly influenced, by social position or pulpit, the approximately 20,000 Puritans who left for New England and especially the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Great Migration decade of the 1630s. Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War and head of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660), attended Sidney Sussex.

Mathematics and mathematical physics

Examination in mathematics was once compulsory for all undergraduates studying for the Bachelor of Arts degree, the main first degree at Cambridge in both arts and sciences. From the time of Isaac Newton in the later 17th century until the mid-19th century, the university maintained an especially strong emphasis on applied mathematics, particularly mathematical physics. The exam is known as a Tripos.[16] Students awarded first-class honours after completing the mathematics Tripos are termed wranglers, and the top student among them is the Senior Wrangler The Cambridge Mathematical Tripos is competitive and has helped produce some of the most famous names in British science, including James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Kelvin and Lord Rayleigh.[17] However, some famous students, such as G. H. Hardy, disliked the system, feeling that people were too interested in accumulating marks in exams and not interested in the subject itself.
Pure mathematics at Cambridge in the 19th century had great achievements but also missed out on substantial developments in French and German mathematics. Pure mathematical research at Cambridge finally reached the highest international standard in the early 20th century, thanks above all to G. H. Hardy and his collaborator, J. E. Littlewood. In geometry, W. V. D. Hodge brought Cambridge into the international mainstream in the 1930s. Although diversified in its research and teaching interests, Cambridge today maintains its strength in mathematics. Cambridge alumni have won six Fields Medals and one Abel Prize for mathematics, while individuals representing Cambridge have won four Fields Medals.[18] The University also runs a Master of Advanced Study course in mathematics.

Modern period

After the Cambridge University Act formalized the organizational structure of the University, the study of many new subjects was introduced, such as theology, history and modern languages.[19] Resources necessary for new courses in the arts, architecture and archaeology were generously donated by Richard Fitzwilliam of Trinity College.[20] Between 1896 and 1902, Downing College sold part of its land to build the Downing Site, comprising new scientific laboratories for anatomy, genetics and Earth sciences.[21] During the same period, the New Museums Site was erected, including the Cavendish Laboratory, which has since moved to the West Cambridge Site, and other departments for chemistry and medicine.[22]
Teaching was heavily disrupted during the First World War in which more than 14,000 members of the University took part and 2,470 died. As a consequence, new State funding started to flow to the institution.[23] Following the Second World War, the University saw a rapid expansion of student numbers and available places; this was partly due to the success and popularity gained by many Cambridge scientists.[24]

Contributions to the advancement of science

Many of history's most important scientific discoveries were made by Cambridge alumni. These include:

Women's education

Initially, only male students were enrolled into the university. The first colleges for women were Girton College (founded by Emily Davies) in 1869 and Newnham College in 1872 (founded by Anne Clough and Henry Sidgwick), followed by Hughes Hall in 1885 (founded by Elizabeth Phillips Hughes as the Cambridge Teaching College for Women), New Hall (later renamed Murray Edwards College) in 1954, and Lucy Cavendish College in 1965. The first women students were examined in 1882 but attempts to make women full members of the university did not succeed until 1948.[25] Women were allowed to study courses, sit examinations, and have their results recorded from 1881; for a brief period after the turn of the twentieth century, this allowed the "steamboat ladies" to receive ad eundem degrees from the University of Dublin.[26]
From 1921 women were awarded diplomas which "conferred the Title of the Degree of Bachelor of Arts". As they were not "admitted to the Degree of Bachelor of Arts" they were excluded from the governing of the university. Since students must belong to a college, and since established colleges remained closed to women, women found admissions restricted to colleges established only for women. Starting with Churchill, Clare and King's Colleges, all of the men's colleges began to admit women between 1972 and 1988. One women's college, Girton, also began to admit male students from 1979, but the other women's colleges did not follow suit. As a result of St Hilda's College, Oxford, ending its ban on male students in 2008, Cambridge is now the only remaining United Kingdom University with colleges which refuse to admit males, with three such institutions (Newnham, Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish).[27][28] In the academic year 2004–5, the university's student gender ratio, including post-graduates, was male 52%: female 48%.[29]

Myths, legends and traditions  

As an institution with such a long history, the University has developed a large number of myths and legends. The vast majority of these are untrue, but have been propagated nonetheless by generations of students and tour guides. A discontinued tradition is that of the wooden spoon, the 'prize' awarded to the student with the lowest passing grade in the final examinations of the Mathematical Tripos. The last of these spoons was awarded in 1909 to Cuthbert Lempriere Holthouse, an oarsman of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St John's College. It was over one metre in length and had an oar blade for a handle.
It can now be seen outside the Senior Combination Room of St John's. Since 1909, results were published alphabetically within class rather than score order. This made it harder to ascertain who the winner of the spoon was (unless there was only one person in the third class), and so the practice was abandoned. Each Christmas Eve, BBC radio and television broadcasts The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. The radio broadcast has been a national Christmas tradition since it was first transmitted in 1928 (though the festival has existed since 1918). The radio broadcast is carried worldwide by the BBC World Service and is also syndicated to hundreds of radio stations in the USA. The first television broadcast of the festival was in 1954.[30][31].[8][not in citation given]
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