From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
According to legend the University of Cambridge in England was founded in 1209 by scholars escaping Oxford after a fight with Oxford locals. King Henry III of England granted them a teaching monopoly in 1231.
|The Mathematician's Bridge over the River Cam.|
|Note the punters on the river. Larger Version|
Along with the University of Oxford, Cambridge University produces a large proportion of Britain's prominent scientists, writers, and politicians; the pair are known as Oxbridge. Both are members of the Russell Group of Universities.
The thirty-one Colleges of the University are independent institutions, separate from the University itself, and they enjoy considerable autonomy. For example, colleges decide which students they are to admit (though this is under review in 2003), are responsible for the welfare and domestic arrangements of students and for small group teaching ('supervisions'). They appoint their own 'fellows' (senior members). Many of the colleges are also quite wealthy (in some cases very wealthy), while the university is not.
The first College was Peterhouse founded in 1284 by Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely. The second-oldest College is King's Hall which was founded in 1317, though it no longer exists as a separate entity. Many other colleges were founded during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A full list of Colleges is given below, though some, such as Michaelhouse (which was combined with King's Hall to make Trinity, by King Henry VII) and Gonville Hall no longer exist.
During those early times the Colleges were founded so that their students would pray for the souls of the founders and were often associated with chapels, if not abbeys. In conjunction with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1536 King Henry VIII ordered the University to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching "scholastic philosophy." So instead of focusing on canon law, the colleges' curricula then became centered on the Greek and Latin classics, the Bible, and mathematics. The university today teaches and researches a complete range of subjects.
The first Colleges for women were Girton College in 1869 and Newnham College in 1872. The first women students were examined in 1882 but attempts to make women full members of the University did not succeed until 1947, 20 years later than at Oxford. Of the 31 Colleges, three are now for women only (Lucy Cavendish, New Hall, and Newnham), and four are for graduate students only (Clare Hall, Darwin, Wolfson and St Edmunds).
A Cambridge exam for the Bachelor of Arts degree is known as a Tripos. Although the university now offers courses in a large number of subjects, it had a particularly strong emphasis on Mathematics up until the early 19th century, and study of this subject was compulsory for graduation. The Mathematics Tripos was extremely competitive, and it helped produce some of the most famous names in British science, including Kelvin, Stokes and Maxwell. However, some famous students, such as Hardy disliked the system, feeling that people were too interested in accumulating large numbers of marks in exams and not interested in the subject itself.
There are certain number of leisure pursuits associated with Cambridge. Rowing is a popular sport and there are competitions between colleges (notably the bumps races) and against Oxford (the Boat Race). There are also Varsity Matches against Oxford in many other sports, including rugby, cricket, chess and tiddlywinks. Those who compete for the university are awarded a blue. Theatre clubs include the famous Footlights.
There are also a number of myths associated with Cambridge University, some of which should be taken less seriously than others. One of the most famous is that of the Queens' College Mathematical Bridge (pictured at the top of the article), which was supposedly designed by Isaac Newton to hold itself together without any bolts or screws. It was also supposedly taken apart by inquisitive students who were then unable to reassemble it. The story is false, as the bridge was actually erected 22 years after Newton's death. Some suspect that imaginative Queens' College students made up the story to explain the tackiness of the bridge.
Front of Churchill College, Cambridge
See also a list of Oxford sister colleges.
Notable recipients of honorary degrees
Cambridge University in Fiction