Click on the interactive timeline below to find out more about our work over the past 200 years.
UCL is established to open up education in England for the first time to students of any race or religion, becoming the first university in London.
Two Scots, a poet and a lawyer, are credited as being the driving force in founding the self-styled 'University of London'.
Thomas Campbell, the poet, was driven by a vision of "a great London University" for "effectively and multifariously teaching, examining, exercising and rewarding with honours, in the liberal arts and sciences, the youth of our middling rich people..."
Henry Brougham, the lawyer, was a believer in Jeremy Bentham's utilitarian principal of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number". Bentham, a great philosopher of ethics, jurisprudence and government, is sometimes wrongly credited as being the founder of UCL – a myth perpetuated by the display of his clothed skeleton in the college's South Cloisters. While he played no close personal role in establishing the college, Bentham did help inspire its foundation. He also helped to fund its development and gave his blessing to the project.
At the time, England only had two universities - Oxford and Cambridge. Bentham regarded this arrangement to be unsatisfactory, calling the two institutions "the two public nuisances... storehouses and nurseries of political corruption". This reflected his belief that these existing universities were not keeping step with the needs of a rapidly changing society.
Quotes taken from Harte and North's The World of UCL 1828-2004.
UCL establishes the first academic departments in Chemistry, English, German and Italian in England. The new modern languages were taught by refugees from their respective countries, including Antonio Panizzi, who had escaped from a death sentence in his native Italy.
Professor of Psychiatry at UCL John Conolly revolutionises the treatment of mentally ill patients, overturning the harsh practice of mechanically restraining patients.
Captain Alexander Maconochie, a retired naval captain, is UCL and Britain's first professor of Geography 1833-36. He was also secretary of the newly-founded Royal Geographical Society.
Originally founded as North London Hospital in 1834 as a place for medical students to do clinical training, it had space for 130 patients. It changed its name to University College Hospital in 1837.
J. J. Sylvester, one of the century’s great mathematicians, joins UCL as a professor. He had previously been expelled for threatening another student with a refectory knife.
The first chair of Civil Engineering the country is established. The first professor, C. B. Vignoles, is a leading railway engineer who comes to UCL having lost £80,000 in shares while Chief Engineer of Sheffield and Manchester Railway.
Robert Liston performs the first operation under anaesthetic in Europe at University College Hospital. Liston is known for his dexterity with a knife, and is said to be able to amputate a leg in 20 seconds. The patient is anaesthetised with ether before having a limb amputated.
Robert Liston performs the first operation under anaesthetic in Europe at University College Hospital.
Walter Bagehot (UCL Mathematics 1846) becomes the editor of the Economist magazine in 1860. The UK current affairs section is still named after him.
Thomas Donaldson, Professor of Architecture at UCL, pioneers architecture as an academic discipline and becomes a co-founder of the Royal Institute of British Architects, winning its Gold Medal in 1851.
One of the Choshu Five, Ito Hirobume, is one of the first international students to come to UCL, going on to become Prime Minister of Japan.
Work commences on the South Wing extension, which now houses UCL Registry.
Alexander Graham Bell (Phonics) is credited with the invention of the telephone. Bell and his associates originally offered to sell the patent for the telephone to Western Union for $100,000. The company declined, only to offer $25 million two years later. By then, Bell was rich and no longer wished to sell the patent.
The Department of Hygiene and Public Health is created.
Work commences on the UCL Slade School of Fine Art. It is built using endowments from Felix Slade, a famous London collector, as a place to teach professional artists.
UCL becomes the first university in England to admit women on equal terms with men: "The officers of the College are not aware that objections have ever been made by any of the students to this combined instruction." (UCL Annual Report).
"I need not say how strongly I feel that it is the business of the U.C. (UCL) to be boldly first in recognising fully any new and real want of the time."
Henry Morley, Professor of English, talking about the admission of female students to the university.
In an 1888 paper, Francis Galton, founder of UCL's Galton Laboratory, estimates the probability of two people having the same fingerprint. He went on to create a model of fingerprint analysis, leading to its use in forensic science.
The discovery in the 1890s of all five of the noble gases, including neon, later earned UCL's Professor William Ramsay the first Nobel Prize for a British scientist.
Sir Flinders Petrie becomes the first chair in Egyptology using money from novelist and explorer Amelia Edwards. It is Ms Edwards’s wish that Sir Flinders spend his winters excavating in Egypt, which he duly does.
UCL becomes the first university in England to establish a students’ union. It is founded without the permission of the UCL Council, in part to protest the inadequacies of sports facilities.
Poet and classicist A. E. Housman publishes A Shropshire Lad, while Professor of Latin at UCL. It has remained in print ever since.
In 1904, Ambrose Fleming, UCL's first Professor of Electrical Engineering, invents the thermionic valve, a device controlling the movement of electrons in a vacuum. The valve signalled the birth of electronics.
Having discovered the elements helium, argon, neon, krypton and xenon, Sir William Ramsay was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry not only for the discovery but also for his “determination of their place in the Periodic system”.
The Cruciform Building is completed. It houses the University College Hospital until 2000.
Gustav Holst (UCL Languages 1909) finishes composition of orchestral suite The Planets in 1916. Five years later, he sets a Cecil Spring-Rice poem to music and in doing so creates the patriotic song I Vow to Thee, My Country.
Celebrated principally for his poetry, Rabindranath Tagore became the voice of India's spiritual heritage. His talent was recognised in 1913 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse".
Isaac Rosenberg (UCL Slade 1913) writes 'On Receiving News of the War' in 1914, one of the earliest poems to criticise World War I. Two years later, he publishes 'Break of Day in the Trenches', which will be called "the greatest poem of the war".
Sir William Henry Bragg, who was an honorary doctor of 12 universities, and his son William Lawrence were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays".
It is entirely due to the Braggs research that X-rays are used as an instrument for the systematic revelation of the way in which crystals are built.
In 1921, former student Marie Stopes opens the first-ever family planning clinic in London. It made one of the greatest social impacts of the 20th century.
1921 UCL establishes a chair in Phonetics.
1928 Charles Spearman becomes the first chair of Psychology.
Working at UCL with Sir William Ramsay, Frederick Soddy makes significant advancement in his study of radium emanation and is awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his contributions to our knowledge of the chemistry of radioactive substances, and his investigations into the origin and nature of isotopes".
Archibald Vivian Hill wins the Nobel Prize in 1922 (not receiving the prize until the following year, however) "for his discovery relating to the production of heat in the muscle". The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is divided equally between himself and German scientist Otto Fritz Meyerhof.
Owen Willans Richardson's research and work on thermionic emission wins him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1928 and eventually led to the law named after him. Richardson, was not however, awarded the prize until a year later, in 1929.
At the age of 22, Sir Frederick Hopkins goes to UCL where he takes the Associateship Examination of the Institute of Chemistry, later winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the research that led to his “discovery of the growth-stimulating vitamins".
Known as the father of modern library science, former student Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan establishes the Five Laws of Library Science in 1931
Sir Henry Hallett Dale and his lifelong friend Otto Loewi, whom he met while carrying out research at UCL, win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1936 "for their discoveries relating to chemical transmission of nerve impulses".
Loewi is jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Henry Hallett Dale “for their discoveries relating to chemical transmission of nerve impulses”. Loewi met Dale while working in Ernest Starling's laboratory at UCL, where they became lifelong friends.
The Royal Society elects former student Kathleen Lonsdale (UCL Crystallography 1936) as its first woman member. In 1949, she became UCL's first-ever female professor.
Former student Francis Harry Compton Crick (UCL Physics 1937) and James Watson identify the DNA double helix. Their work became the basis of the human genome project.
Ken Adam (UCL Bartlett 1938) works as a production designer for the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. He goes on to design numerous iconic film sets, including the Dr. Strangelove war room in 1964 and, in 1967, the volcanic base in You Only Live Twice.
Corneille Jean Francois Heymans is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for the discovery of the role played by the sinus and aortic mechanisms in the regulation of respiration“. Heymans worked in Ernest Starling’s laboratory at UCL.
UCL is seriously damaged in a Second World War bombing raid. The bombing entirely destroys the Great Hall and guts much of the library. Fortunately, all departments had been evacuated from London at the onset of war in 1939.
Sir Ifor Evans is appointed Provost, overseeing a period of rapid expansion. He remains a well-known literary critic, writer and broadcaster, particularly with the Observer.
The Lunch Hour Lecture series begins, commencing UCL's proud tradition of public engagement by offering lectures open to all.
Although Otto Hahn's research was interrupted by his service in the First World War, he went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1945 (one year after it was awarded to him), "for his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei".
Professor Lord Holford is appointed as the planning consultant for the City of London's post-war rebuilding.
Considered one of the great synthetic organic chemists of the 20th century, Sir Robert Robinson wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1947 “for his investigations on plant products of biological importance, especially the alkaloids”.
Eduardo Paolozzi (UCL Slade 1947) finishes I was a Rich Man's Plaything, a collage considered one of the earliest examples of pop art, in 1947. In 1984, he makes a lasting contribution to London by designing the colourful mosaic murals in Tottenham Court Road Station.
Former engineering student Colin Chapman (UCL Structural Engineering 1948) creates the Lotus Mark 1, which he enters into local racing events. With it, the legendary Lotus cars are born.
Roger Penrose (UCL Mathematics 1952) proves that black holes can be formed from the collapse of dying stars in 1965. He shares the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to mankind’s understanding of the universe.
David Lodge (UCL English 1955) completes his Booker Prize-nominated Campus Trilogy, which satirises academic life, in 1988. He adapts Martin Chuzzlewit for the BBC in 1994.
Vincent du Vigneaud wins the Nobel Prize in 1955 "for his work on biochemically important sulphur compounds, especially for the first synthesis of a polypeptide hormone". Du Vigneaud spent much time in both the United States and England where he carried out his research.
Sir Harrie Massey, Head of the Department of Physics, leads a team of UK government and UCL academics to launch the first successful British scientific rocket.
Raymond Briggs (UCL Slade 1957) completes wordless children’s book The Snowman in 1978. The film version is nominated for an Academy Award in 1982.
Andrew Davies (UCL English 1957) writes the television adaption of political thriller House of Cards in 1990. He becomes a household name for his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth in 1995 and goes on to win an Emmy award for Little Dorrit in 2008.
Studying under Sir William Ramsay, W. C. Mc. C. Lewis and F. G. Donnan during his time at UCL, Jaroslav Heyrovsky becomes particularly interested in working on electrochemistry. He is awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1959 "for his discovery and development of the polarographic methods of analysis".
In 1951, Peter Medawar is appointed Jodrell Professor of Zoology at UCL, where he remains until 1962. During this time, he is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the discovery of acquired immunological tolerance".
Francis Crick, his good friend James Watson and Maurice Wilkins are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". Around the same time, he is also elected as a Fellow of UCL where he had obtained his BSc in Physics.
In 1960, Andrew Fielding Huxley becomes head of the Department of Physiology at UCL and wins the Nobel Prize in- Physiology or Medicine in 1963 during his tenure. He is awarded the Prize alongside Sir John Eccles and Alan L. Hodgkin "for their discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane".
Michael Epstein, Yvonne Barr and Bert Achong identify the Epstein-Barr virus (responsible for glandular fever) at the UCL Medical School, Middlesex Hospital.
Bentham House, in Endsleigh Gardens, is purchased to house the Faculty of Laws. It had previously been the offices of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers.
Sir Richard MacCormac (UCL Bartlett 1965) wins national awards for his modernist creations, including the University of Lancaster’s Ruskin Library in 1998. A year later, he designs Thierry Henry's £6 million Hampstead mansion.
Dame Mary Douglas publishes Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, which is later named as one of the 100 most influential non-fiction books since 1945.
Derek Jarman (UCL Slade 1967) writes and directs Sebastiane, a homoerotic interpretation of the life of Saint Sebastian, in 1976. It is the first film to be entirely recorded in Latin. He directs the Pet Shop Boys’ UK tour in 1989.
Baron Porter of Luddenham, Manfred Eigen and Ronald G. W. Norrish win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions, effected by disturbing the equlibrium by means of very short pulses of energy". The same year, Baron Porter becomes Visiting Professor at UCL.
Junichiro Koizumi (UCL Economics 1968) becomes Prime Minister of Japan in 2001.
For his PhD, Sir Bernard Katz studies under Professor A. V. Hill at UCL, after which he leaves to continue his research in Australia. He returns to UCL once again in 1946, rejoining A. V. Hill's research unit as Assistant Director of Research and Henry Head Research Fellow (appointed by the Royal Society). Alongside Professor Ulf Svante von Euler and Julius Axelrod, he is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for discoveries concerning the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation".
Alongside Sir Bernard Katz and Julius Axelrod, Ulf Svante von Euler wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970 "for their discoveries concerning the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation". Von Euler’s father Hans von Euler-Chelpin won the Nobel Prize in 1929 for his research in the field of Chemistry.
Patrick Head (UCL Mechanical Engineering 1970; Fellow 2005) co-founds Williams Formula One in 1977. It has since gone on to become one of the most successful teams of the past 20 years.
Under the stewardship of UCL's Professor Peter Kirstein, UCL makes the first network connection to the USA - a precursor of the modern internet.
Jonathan Miller (UCL History of Medicine 1973) directs a Mafia-inspired adaption of Rigoletto in 1982. In 2004, he writes and presents Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, a historical review of atheism for BBC Four.
UCL establishes the Department of Physics and Astronomy, an amalgamation which becomes the College’s largest department. Space research had begun in the Department of Physics in 1956 led by Sir Robert Boyd.
Wates House (UCL Bartlett) opens to accommodate the Faculty of the Built Environment.
Former UCL LLB student Baroness Scotland (UCL Laws 1976) becomes the first female Attorney General since the post was created in 1315.
Chris Rapley (UCL Astronomy 1976) arranges for a band to perform in Antarctica as part of the Live Earth concert in 2007. In the same year, he is appointed Director of the Science Museum.
Lynn Truss (UCL English 1977) completes Eats, Shoots & Leaves in 2003. This guide to punctuation misuse tops the bestseller charts in both Britain and the United States.
UCL's student accommodation expands to 1,500 places. There were just 350 places in 1961.
UCL's Professor Robin Weiss and colleagues discover that the CD4 molecule on lymphocytes is the binding receptor for HIV, crucial to early understanding of how HIV infects cells.
Rachel Whiteread CBE (UCL Slade 1987) becomes the first woman to be awarded the Turner Prize in 1993.
Andrew Davenport (UCL Phonetics & Linguistics 1987) wins a second BAFTA award in 1998, this time for Teletubbies. He goes on to create In The Night Garden in 2007.
Sir James Black is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work leading to the development of propranolol and cimetidine, a drug used to treat stomach ulcers. He spent his career teaching and carrying out research in several universities in the UK.
Farshid Moussavi (UCL Bartlett 1989) co-founds Foreign Office Architects (FOA) in 1993. She goes on to design the award-winning Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in 1995.
Douglas Gordon (UCL Slade 1990) wins the Turner Prize in 1996. Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle, a feature-length film following the French footballer during a match, premieres at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.
Bert Sakmann shares the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for discoveries concerning the function of single ion channels in cells" and the invention of the patch clamp. In 1971, Sakmann moved from Munich to UCL, where he worked in the Department of Biophysics under Bernard Katz.
Brett Anderson (UCL Bartlett 1991) hits number one in the UK album charts as vocalist of Suede in 1993. The band reforms after a seven-year break-up in 2010.
Justine Frischmann (UCL Bartlett 1992) co-founds Suede with then-boyfriend Brett Anderson in 1989. Her new band, Elastica, releases their first album in 1995.
Former student Christopher Nolan (UCL English 1993) directs his debut film Following in 1998. He goes on to direct Inception in 2010, shooting some of it in UCL's Gustave Tuck lecture theatre.
UCL Slade School graduate Antony Gormley begins work on the iconic Angel of the North sculpture. He wins the Turner Prize the same year.
The University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is established. One of the first of its kind, it includes UCH, and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.
Chris Martin (UCL Greek and Latin 1996), Jonny Buckland (UCL Mathematics 1996), Will Champion (UCL Anthropology 1996) and Guy Berryman (UCL Engineering 1996) meet at Ramsay Hall during Freshers' week and go on to form Coldplay.
Julian Baggini (UCL Philosophy 1996) co-founds The Philosophers’ Magazine in 1997. His book, The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And Ninety Nine Other Thought Experiments, is published in 2005.
1986 The Institute of Archaeology becomes part of UCL.
1997 The Institute of Neurology merges with UCL.
1999 The School of Slavonic and East European Studies merges with UCL.
1999 The Eastman Dental Institute joins UCL.
James Heckman wins the Nobel Prize in Economics ”for his development of theory and methods for analysing selective samples“. At UCL, Professor Heckman holds the Distinguished Chair of Economics.
Sir Paul Nurse, Leland H. Hartwell and Tim Hunt win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle”. Sir Paul goes on to become the first Director of the Francis Crick Institute, in which UCL is a founding partner.
UCL computer scientists make a groundbreaking transatlantic 'virtual handshake' over the internet with MIT counterparts in 2002.
UCL is given the power to award its own degrees. Previously, it had awarded University of London degrees.
Christine Ohuruogu MBE (UCL Linguistics 2005) wins a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in the 400m.
Joshua Hayward (UCL Physics 2006) releases first album Strange House with his band the Horrors in 2007. The band joins Florence and the Machine on their UK and Ireland tour in 2012.
Rob Williams (UCL Biotechnology 2006) wins gold in the lightweight men’s four at the World Rowing Championships in 2010. He follows this success with a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
UCL establishes a Vice-Provost (Enterprise) post to promote collaboration with industry partners and entrepreneurial activity within the university.
"An enterprising community is one that is resourceful, creative, dynamic, and bold – characteristics that we recognise as part of the fabric of UCL."
Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost (Enterprise)
Sir Martin Evans wins the Nobel Prize for "discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells". Today, genetically modified mice are considered vital for medical research.
UCL is rated the best research university in London and the third best in the UK overall.
UCL Partners is designated as one of the first academic health science partnerships in the UK. As well as UCL, the founding partners include Barts Health NHS Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Charles Kao is a pioneer in the development and use of fibre optics in telecommunications and in 2009 is awarded the Nobel Prize for his "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication". Kao, who is known as the 'Godfather of Broadband', received his PhD degree in electrical engineering in 1965 from UCL.
The Yale UCL Collaborative is formally established. Its working mission is to educate to enable positive contribution, interpret complex issues for wider society and solve important issues through collaborative research and its implementation.
UCL becomes a founding partner of the Francis Crick Institute, a medical research consortium also involving the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, Imperial and King's College London.
A 2011 study of gene therapy developed at UCL and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital offers first proof that adults with haemophilia B benefit from treatment.
In one of the most complex transplant surgeries ever performed, an international team of surgeons, which includes Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute), restores the voice of a US woman who had been unable to speak for more than a decade.
The School of Pharmacy merges with UCL, becoming part of the Faculty of Life Sciences. The School was founded in 1842 by the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain to "elevate the profession of pharmacy by furnishing the means of proper institution".
The UCL Academy opens its doors to Year 7 and 12 students. UCL is the sole sponsor of the academy, a non-selective, mixed state school. The London Evening Standard described it as "likely to match, or even outstrip, what’s on offer at the country’s most outstanding private schools" (10 September 2012).
UCL launches the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts and Sciences undergraduate degree programme. All students on the course will be required to study a mix of arts and sciences, as well as a foreign language. They will also be offered the opportunity to study abroad for a year.
Peter Higgs and François Englert win the Nobel Prize in Physics “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider”. Higgs studied at UCL before going on to become a lecturer in mathematics.
James Rothman shares the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells”. Professor Rothman is establishing a laboratory at UCL under the Yale-UCL collaboration.
Professor John O’Keefe, Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits & Behaviour at UCL, is awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain - an ‘inner GPS’ - that enables us to orient ourselves.
The Institute of Education merges with UCL, becoming an 11th faculty. The Institute was founded in 1902, and is today known throughout the world as the UK’s premier centre of excellence for the education and training of teachers and for the conduct of educational research.