Cambridge’s Claim to Fame – 15 Ways Cambridge Was Put on the Map

As one of the UK’s most vibrant cities, Cambridge is already renowned as a destination you must visit for a staycation. 

Whether you’re exploring the city during a business trip or enjoying a long weekend away, there is so much more worth knowing about Cambridge that will help you discover more about what makes this city so special.

To help you truly take in the magnificence of Cambridge’s history and how it’s been so deeply involved in many of what we know and love today in our culture, we’ve revealed the top fifteen ways Cambridge has been put on the map over the years. 

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Cambridge Notorieties  

Oliver Cromwell – Sidney Sussex College, 1617

As one of the key figures that shaped British history, you may also be intrigued to know that Oliver Cromwell grew up in Cambridgeshire and attended Sidney Sussex College, one of the University of Cambridge’s colleges. 

Oliver Cromwell lived in the nearby town of Huntingdon near Cambridge and started at Sidney Sussex College just before his seventeenth birthday. He remained living around Cambridge for the next twenty years before joining the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. 

Charles Darwin – Christ’s College, 1831 

Many are unaware that Charles Darwin often changed his academic interest multiple times in his professional career. 

Originally Charles was sent to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. However, in his journal he wrote how seeing so much blood and suffering had made him lose any ambition to become a doctor. 

Charles was then sent to Cambridge by his father to study the arts, in the hope that he might one day become an Anglican country parson. 

Alan Turing – King’s College, 1934 

Not surprisingly, Alan Turing who is responsible for breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II studied mathematics at King’s College Cambridge. 

Even from a young age, Alan Turing was fascinated with maths, and many of the letters he sent home from his early boarding days as a child included illustrations of his inventions and mathematical equations. 

King’s College continues to celebrate Alan Turing’s work with a dedicated museum, and programme in honour of his life’s work. 

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Sir David Attenborough – Clare College, 1947 

One of the UK’s most beloved national TV treasures, David Attenborough has provided the world with an insight into the animals many of us could never dream to get close to. 

David’s career in natural sciences began at the University of Cambridge, where he collected 32 honourary degrees in addition to his bachelor’s in natural sciences from Clare College. 

Professor Stephen Hawking – Trinity Hall College, 1965

You cannot think of Cambridge, without thinking of Professor Stephen Hawking. 

It was while studying at Trinity Hall College the British scientist Stephen Hawking discovered that black holes emit radiation. 

Since this discovery, Stephen Hawking went on to perform groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and wrote many books which helped make science accessible to everyone. 

After graduating from the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Hawking tutored there for 30 years before he passed in 2018.

Emma Thompson – Newham College, 1980 

Best known for her roles in period films, and of course, Love Actually, Emma Thompson began her acting career in Cambridge. 

While studying drama, Emma also became the first woman to be invited to Cambridge’s prestigious comedy club, “Footlights”, where she earned the nickname, ‘Emma Talented’. 

Fellow British actors Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were also part of the Footlights. 

The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge 

After their wedding in 2011, Prince William and Kate Middleton were given the royal titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

These titles have since created global recognition for the city. 

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Cambridge History

The Universities 

The grand architecture of Cambridge is thanks to the 31 colleges which make up the iconic institution that is The University of Cambridge. 

The university buildings almost represent about half of all the buildings in the city centre and attract thousands of tourists who visit the buildings to get a snapshot of their unique grandeur. 

King’s College Chapel in particular is one of the most Instagrammed locations in Cambridge.


Cambridge has been firmly put on the medical marvels map thanks to Robert Edwards whose research led to the success of in vitro fertilisation (IVF). 

The big breakthrough came in 1978, with the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby. 

The first IVF clinic was then established at Bourn Hall in Cambridgeshire in 1980. 

Since IVF was discovered it has been estimated that six million babies have been born through IVF all over the world. 

In 2010, Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.


From big blockbusters such as Harry Potter, to period films, Cambridge has played the iconic location from many TV and films. 

It’s quite common to see film crews in action, and actors lunching in between takes while walking around the city. 

If you’re wondering where you’ve seen a place before, read our blog on the 10 famous movies which have all been filmed in the city. 

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Nobel Prizes

Cambridge sits fourth on the list of Nobel Prize-winning cities. 

In total, Cambridge has 96 Nobel Prizes and has more than France, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and Russia. 

To break them all down, there are 32 in physics, 26 in medicine, 22 in chemistry, 11 in economics, 3 in literature and two in peace. 

If you want a Nobel Prize, Cambridge is the third-best university for providing them behind Harvard and Columbia. 

The Hole in the Ozone Layer 

In 1985 Joe Farman rose to fame after he alerted the world to the man-made hole in the ozone layer that was slowly killing the planet. 

Joe studied at Corpus Christi in Cambridge and went on to join the British Antarctic Survey based in Cambridge.

Along with his fellow researchers, Brian Gardiner and Jon Shanklin, Joe Farman is credited with one of the biggest environmental discoveries of the 20th century. 


The first set of rules for modern football were written down in Cambridge. 

Members of Cambridge University put together the rules of modern football in 1848 and went to Parkers Piece to play them. You can still visit this green common near the centre of the city. 

Back in the day, the rules could be found pinned to trees surrounding the park for anyone who wanted to turn up and have a game. 

The Cambridge rules were eventually used to form the first set of Football Association (FA) rules in 1863. 

Would you like to know more about Cambridge? Talk to our team when booking your Signet serviced apartment and we may be able to provide a tip or little insight to make your stay more enjoyable.

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