2010 Austin Smith: (Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine) For his seminal contribution to understanding the mechanisms governing the renewal or differentiation of stem cells, a vital stage in the development of cell treatment.
2009 John Gurdon: His discoveries relating to the way differentiated cells from adult tissues can be reset to differentiate into any cell type (nuclear reprogramming) have opened new avenues for embryonic and adult stem cell research, creating the research base to explore the possibility of personalised cell and tissue-replacement therapies in degenerative and other diseases.
2008 David Baulcombe: His discovery of the role and underlying mechanism of gene silencing by antisense RNA initiated a major advance in the understanding of the ways genes are regulated, and this insight makes possible major new genetic tools for basic research, and for improving agriculture and human health. [Professor Baulcombe's web page]
2007 Martin Evans: Discoveries of ‘principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells’ (N) A pioneer of gene targeting in mice. Gene targeting is now being applied to virtually all areas of biomedicine – from basic research to the development of new therapies. [Cardiff University: Professor Evan's web page]
2002 John Sulston and Sydney Brenner: Discoveries concerning ‘genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death’ (N) By establishing and using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as an experimental model system, it became possibile to follow cell division and differentiation from the fertilized egg to the adult. Sulston and Brenner, along with Robert Horvitz, identified key genes regulating organ development and programmed cell death and have shown that corresponding genes exist in higher species, including man. [Wellcome Trust: The Human Genome]
1996 James Mirrlees: Fundamental contributions to the economic theory of incentives under asymmetric information (N) Professor of Political Economy and Fellow of Trinity College, James Mirrlees is recognized for his work on the economic theory of public policy and the economics of uncertainty. Renowned for his work on the theory of income taxation, he was the first to develop and solve a mathematical model of an economy and the effects of income tax on that economy.
1988 Stephen Hawking: ‘A Brief History of Time’ Professor Stephen Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, publishes his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’ one of the best selling scientific books of all time. He is already eminent for his work on black holes and the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. [Professor Hawking's website]
1968 Anthony Hewish and Jocelyn Bell: Discovering pulsating stars or ‘pulsars’. Their work alters the course of modern cosmology. (N) Anthony Hewish and Jocelyn Bell make the most exciting recent observation in astrophysics by discovering pulsating stars or ‘pulsars’ using Cambridge’s Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory. Their work alters the course of modern cosmology. [Cambridge Physics: Pulsars]
1962 Max Perutz: Studied the structures of globular proteins by use of X-ray diffraction. (N) Worked alongside John Kendrew (above) at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular
1962 John Kendrew: Studied the structures of globular proteins by use of X-ray diffraction. (N) Worked alongside Max Perutz (below) at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular
1958 Frederick Sanger: Determined the specific sequence of the amino acid building blocks which form the protein insulin (N) Frederick Sanger of the University’s Department of Biochemistry, wins the first of his two Nobel prizes for Chemistry for determining the specific sequence of the amino acid building blocks which form the protein insulin. He was the first person to win two Nobel prizes for Chemistry, the second in 1980. [Sanger Institute: About Frederick Sanger]
1955 Sylvia Plath: Fulbright Scholar Sylvia Plath, Fulbright Scholar at Newnham, continues correspondence to her mother, later to be published in the book, ‘Letters Home’.
1954 Joseph Needham: ‘Science and Civilisation in China’ Dr Joseph Needham, Master of Gonville and Caius and already eminent in biochemistry, publishes the first volume of his ‘Science and Civilisation in China’, the start of a massive enterprise, vastly expanding our knowledge of China and its civilisation. [Needham Research Institute]
1953 Francis Crick and James Watson: Discover structure of DNA, leads to genetics (N) Francis Crick and James Watson discover the structure of DNA, unlocking the secret of how coded information is contained in living cells and passed from one
generation to the next – the secret of life. Their discovery opens the door to the study of an entirely new science – genetics. In 1962 Crick and Watson share the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for their discovery of DNA with Maurice Wilkins of the University of London. [Cambridge Physics: Structure of DNA]
1949 Maurice Wilkes: develops the EDSAC, the first stored program digital computer to work successfully Maurice Wilkes develops the EDSAC, Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, the first stored program digital computer to work successfully. [A short biography]
1944 G.M. Trevelyan: publishes ‘English Social History’ G.M. Trevelyan, Professor of Modern History, publishes his pioneering work, ‘English Social History’, a companion to his ‘History of England’, 1926.
1937 Dorothy Garrod: Disney Professor of Archaeology Dorothy Garrod becomes Disney Professor of Archaeology, the University’s first woman professor. Her notable excavations at Mount Carmel cast new light on the origin of our own species, Homo sapiens sapiens, and our links to Neanderthal man. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography]
1936 John Maynard Keynes: Publishes ‘General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ John Maynard Keynes, Fellow of King’s, publishes the revolutionary ‘General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’, following his equally powerful ‘A Treatise on Money’ six years earlier. The Keynsian Revolution, as it became known, changes the view of how economies should be managed. As Bursar of King’s, Lord Keynes also initiated the Cambridge Arts Theatre. [Concise Encyclopedia of Economics]
1936 Alan Turing: Publishes ‘On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem’ The publication of this work lead to work for his PhD at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, then cryptanalysis work for the Government at Bletchley Park. His work on computing (1945-52) laid the cornerstones of computer science. Between 1952 and his death in 1954 he worked on mathematical biology, particularly pattern formation in morphogenesis. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography]
1934 Flight Lieutenant Frank Whittle: Discovers jet propulsion Flight Lieutenant Frank Whittle is sent to Cambridge as a mature student by the RAF and enters Peterhouse. He is encouraged to pursue his innovative idea of jet propulsion, patented three years earlier but ignored by the Air Ministry.
1933 Paul Dirac: One of the founding fathers of quantum theory, also suggested the existence of antimatter. (N) Professor Paul Dirac receives his Nobel prize for Physics. One of the founding fathers of quantum theory, basic to physics, chemistry and mathematics, Dirac also suggested the existence of antimatter, the positron being the first antiparticle to be discovered. Positron Emission Tomography is today a vital technique in many areas of medical diagnosis. [History of Mathematics Archive]
1932 Ernest Rutherford: Splits Atom (Cockcroft & Walton N)The atom is split for the first time. The work, giving birth to the study of nuclear physics, is carried out by John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, under the direction of Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory. Their Nobel prize for Physics is awarded in 1951. [Cambridge Physics: Rutherford] [Cambridge Physics: Cockcroft & Walton]
1929 Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins: Discovered vitamins. Gave rise to the study of biochemistry (N) Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, Professor of Biochemistry, receives his Nobel prize for Physiology and Medicine for discovering vitamins. It was his work which gave rise to the study of a new subject, biochemistry, and inspired Sir William Dunn’s trustees to endow the now world famous Sir William Dunn Institute of Biochemistry. [Emmanuel College]
1912 Lawrence Bragg: Discovery of the mechanism of X-ray diffraction (N) During a walk on the Backs, the young Lawrence Bragg has an idea that will lead to his discovery of the mechanism of X-ray diffraction. Three years later, he shares his Nobel prize for Physics with his father, W.H. Bragg. [Cambridge Physics]
1911 Ludwig Wittgenstein: arrives in Cambridge Ludwig Wittgenstein arrives in Cambridge from Vienna to study philosophy with Russell. The work of the two men, with Moore, transforms philosophy during the first half of the 20th century and makes Cambridge the most important centre for philosophical research in the English-speaking world. [Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive]
1903 Bertrand Russell: publishes ‘Principles of Mathematics’ (N) Bertrand Russell, Fellow of Trinity, publishes ‘Principles of Mathematics’, the same year as G.E. Moore publishes his influential ‘Principia Ethica’. In 1913, Russell and A.N. Whitehead publish the even more influential ‘Principia Mathematica’. It is another four decades before Russell collects his Nobel prize for Literature. [McMaster University: Bertrand Russell Archives]
1897 J.J. Thomson: Discovered the electron (N) J.J. Thomson, Cavendish Professor of Physics, discovers the electron, laying the foundations for the whole of modern physics, including electronics and computer technology. In following years, inventors use his work to develop new devices such as the telephone, radio and television. 1906 J.J. Thomson collects his Nobel prize for Physics for his work on the electron. [Cambridge Physics: Xray diffraction]
1871 James Clerk Maxwell: Outlines theory of electromagnetic radiation James Clerk Maxwell returns to Cambridge as the first Cavendish Professor of Physics. Two years afterwards he publishes his ‘Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism’ and later outlines his theory of electromagnetic radiation, confirming him as the leading theoretical physicist of the century. [Institute of Physics]
1831 Charles Darwin: Natural Selection Charles Darwin of Christ’s is recommended by Botany Professor John Stevens Henslow to join HMS Beagle as the naturalist on its scientific survey of South American waters. [Darwin 2009 celebrations]
1812 Charles Babbage: ‘difference engine’ (unfinished) leading to the modern computer Charles Babbage, while an under-graduate at Peterhouse, has his first ideas for a calculating machine and later starts work on his ‘difference engine’, which he never completed but which heralds later inventions leading to the modern computer. [Science Museum: Babbage]
1687 Isaac Newton: Establishing the fundamental principles of modern physics Isaac Newton publishes ‘Principia Mathematica’, establishing the fundamental principles of modern physics. [Isaac Newton Resources]
1628 William Harvey: Discovered the mechanism for blood circulation William Harvey of Gonville and Caius College, publishes his celebrated treatise, ‘De motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus’ (On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals), describing his discovery of the mechanism of blood circulation. [Royal College of Physicians]