To understand the scientific story of Cambridge as a city, many look to the impressive Nobel Prize tally of Cambridge scientists and alumni. According to the University, its ‘affiliates’ have been awarded more Nobel Prizes than those of any other institution. First awarded in 1901, the Nobel Prizes are very modern in comparison to the 800 years of Cambridge academic history. The Nobel therefore fails to capture some of the biggest names from Cambridge’s past.
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Beyond the Nobel Prizes: Marks & Clerk's latest piece on innovation in Cambridge published by Business Weekly
The Cambridge Nobel Prizes encompass the pioneers of modern physics, such as the quantum genius Dirac and the early Cavendish Professors Rayleigh, Thomson, Rutherford, and Bragg. They recognise the skill of the chemical structure solvers, among them Cambridge’s first female Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin, two-time winner Frederick Sanger and, of course, the DNA-duo Watson & Crick. The latter pair paved the way for molecular biologists who seem to have dominated among recent Cambridge winners, including Sir Greg Winter, John Gurdon, and Sydney Brenner, to name but a few. There is no doubt that these prizes are an easy way to tell an illustrious punt-sized history of Cambridge science. But the Nobel headcount is an imperfect measure of scientific success and paints only a partial picture of innovation in Cambridge.