Cambridge’s Most Successful Alumni of All Time


As such a storied cultural hub and home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, it’s fair to say that Cambridge has seen its fair share of famous faces.

It’s on the alumni that we’re going to focus, putting together an overview of the comedians, scientists, actors and poets who have called the hallowed halls of Cambridge’s colleges home at one time or another. With most colleges only a short journey from famous Cambridge Hotels, you’re surrounded by the once-haunts of now-famous alumni.

So, with that in mind, let’s jump in and see who you recognise.

Emma Thompson

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She is so adorable aw😍 #emmathompson #tgif

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Now known to audiences around the world as a fine actor and one of Britain’s greatest thespian exports, Emma Thompson was once a student at Cambridge’s Newham College.

Dipping into both acting and comedy, Thompson performed alongside – and formed a lifelong friendship with – fellow then-student Stephen Fry. Now an academy award-winning actress, Emma Thompson has come a long from her time treading the boards at Cambridge.

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie

As mentioned above, Stephen Fry was a student at Cambridge University, passing his time at Queens’ College.

Comedian, actor, writer and television presenter, Stephen Fry has forged a decades-long career since his time in Cambridge’s Footlights. And right there alongside him was Huge Laurie.

Known in Britain for Blackadder, A Bit of Fry and Laurie and TV series’ House and The Night Manager in the US, Hugh Laurie was also a member of footlights – that’s how he met Stephen Fry – and a keen athlete to boot. Indeed, Laurie was part of the team for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race during his tenure at Selwyn College. And if you do decide to visit the famous colleges that played host to now-famous alumni, you’re close by to the best restaurants in Cambridge for a little respite and refuelling.

Siegfried Sassoon

Once a student at Clare College, Siegfried Sassoon actually dropped out of studying history before completing his studies in 1907.

Then, nine years later, Sassoon found himself in the midst of World War One. Already an excellent poet, Sassoon turned his talents to describing and allegorising the madness he saw all around. Today Sassoon’s work is regarded as some of the most captivating, definitive poetry ever composed about the World War One experience.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Known as the father of the atom bomb – much to his displeasure – J. Robert Oppenheimer once called Christ’s College home.

First applying to study at the university as a precocious teen, Oppenheimer eventually found his way to Cambridge a few years later and made good use of the famous Cavendish Laboratory.

Playing a significant role – some say the driving role – in developing the nuclear weapons eventually used against Japan during World War Two, Oppenheimer came to regret his work in later years deeply.

Ian McKellen

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It was probably apparent to everyone who met Ian McKellen where he would end up. Appearing in 23 plays while a member of the university’s famous ‘Marlowe Club’, McKellen was always on a path towards acting fame.

Now known all over the world for his role in Lord of the Rings, McKellen has also accrued six Olivier Awards, a Golden Globe Award, two Academy Award nominations and many other accolades.