UCL has a history of academic excellence and is consistently ranked amongst the world’s top universities, with many of our institutions leading their field.
Renowned for world-class research, global influence and impact across a broad range of subject areas – our reputation attracts and empowers the best and bravest of thinkers, creating a home for the thought leaders of today and tomorrow.
Use the tabs below to explore UCL's history.
- 2014: Professor John O'Keefe – the brain's 'inner GPS'
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.
- 2013: Professor James E. Rothman – a major transport system in our cells
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.
- 2013: Professor Peter Higgs – origin of mass of subatomic particles
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.
- 2009: Professor Charles Kao – transmission of light in fibres for optical communication
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.
- 2007: Professor Sir Martin Evans – gene modifications in mice
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.
- 2001: Sir Paul Nurse – key regulators of the cell cycle
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.
- 2000: Professor James Heckman – analysing selective samples in Economics
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.
- 1991: Professor Bert Sakmann – single ion channels in cells
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.
- 1988: Professor Sir James Black – propranolol and cimetidine development
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.
- 1970: Professor Ulf Svante von Euler – humoral transmittors in nerve terminals
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.
- 1970: Professor Sir Bernard Katz – humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals
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".
- 1967: George Porter (Baron Porter of Luddenham) – fast chemical reactions and short pulses of energy
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 equilibrium by means of very short pulses of energy". The same year, Baron Porter becomes Visiting Professor at UCL.
- 1963: Professor Andrew Fielding Huxley – ionic mechanisms and the nerve cell membrane
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".
- 1962: Professor Francis Harry Compton Crick – molecular structure of nucleic acids
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.
- 1960: Professor Peter Brian Medawar – acquired immunological tolerance
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".
- 1959: Professor Jaroslav Heyrovsky – polarographic methods of analysis in electrochemistry
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".
- 1955: Professor Vincent du Vigneaud – biochemically important sulphur compounds
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.
- 1947: Professor Sir Robert Robinson – plant products of biological importance
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”.
- 1944: Professor Otto Hahn – fission of heavy nuclei
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".
- 1939: Professor Corneille Jean Francois Heymans – sinus and aortic mechanisms in respiration
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.
- 1936: Professor Otto Loewi – 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.
- 1936: Sir Henry Hallett Dale – chemical transmission of nerve impulses
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".
- 1929: Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins – discovery of the growth-stimulating vitamins
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".
- 1928: Professor Owen Willans Richardson – thermionic emission
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.
- 1922: Professor Archibald Vivian Hill – production of heat in the muscle
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.
- 1921: Professor Frederick Soddy – chemistry of radioactive substances
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".
- 1915: Professor Sir William Henry Bragg – analysis of crystal structure
Sir William Henry Bragg, who was an honorary doctor of 12 universities, and his son William Lawrence are 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.
- 1913: Rabindranath Tagore – voice of India's spiritual heritage
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".
- 1904: Professor Sir William Ramsay – discovery of helium, argon, neon, krypton and xenon
- 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”.
- 2006: Rob Williams – rowing
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.
- 2006: Joshua Hayward – music
Joshua Hayward (UCL Physics 2006) releases his 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.
- 2005: Christine Ohuruogu – athletics
Christine Ohuruogu MBE (UCL Linguistics 2005) wins a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in the 400m.
- 1996: Julian Baggini – publishing
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.
- 1996: Coldplay – music
Chris Martin (UCL Greek and Latin 1996), Jonny Buckland (UCL Mathematics 1996), Will Champion (UCL Anthropology 1996) and Guy Berryman (UCL Engineering Sciences 1996) meet at Ramsay Hall during Freshers' Week and go on to form Coldplay.
- 1993: Christopher Nolan – film
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.
- 1992: Justine Frischmann – music
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.
- 1991: Brett Anderson – music
Brett Anderson (UCL Bartlett 1991) hits number one in the UK album charts as vocalist of Suede in 1993. The band breaks up in 2003 but reforms in 2010.
- 1990: Douglas Gordon – film
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.
- 1989: Farshid Moussavi – architecture
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.
- 1987: Andrew Davenport – television
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.
- 1987: Rachel Whiteread – art
Rachel Whiteread CBE (UCL Slade 1987) becomes the first woman to be awarded the Turner Prize in 1993.
- 1977: Lynn Truss – publishing
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.
- 1976: Chris Rapley – science
Chris Rapley CBE (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.
- 1976: Baroness Scotland – politics
Former UCL LLB student Baroness Scotland (UCL Laws 1976) becomes the first female Attorney General since the post was created in 1315.
- 1973: Jonathan Miller – film and television
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.
- 1970: Patrick Head – Williams Formula One
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.
- 1968: Junichiro Koizumi – politics
Junichiro Koizumi (UCL Economics 1968) becomes Prime Minister of Japan in 2001.
- 1967: Derek Jarman – film and music
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.
- 1965: Richard MacCormac – architecture
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.
- 1964: Michael Epstein and Yvonne Barr – medicine
Michael Epstein, Yvonne Barr and Bert Achong identify the Epstein-Barr virus (responsible for glandular fever) at the UCL Medical School, Middlesex Hospital.
- 1957: Andrew Davies – television
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.
- 1957: Raymond Briggs – illustration
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.
- 1955: David Lodge – publishing
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.
- 1952: Roger Penrose – science and maths
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.
- 1948: Colin Chapman – car manufacturing
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.
- 1947: Eduardo Paolozzi – art
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.
- 1938: Ken Adam – set design
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.
- 1937: Francis Crick – science
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.
- 1936: Kathleen Lonsdale – crystallography
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.
- 1913: Isaac Rosenberg – war poetry
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 some go on to call the greatest poem of the war. Read more about Rosenberg in the UCL Antenna article 'We will remember them'.
- 1909: Gustav Holst – music composition
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'.
- 1868: Alexander Graham Bell – telephone invention
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.
- 1863: Ito Hirobume – politics
Ito Hirobume, one of the Choshu Five, is one of the first international students to come to UCL, going on to become Prime Minister of Japan.
- 1846: Walter Bagehot – publishing
Walter Bagehot (UCL Mathematics 1846) becomes the editor of the Economist magazine in 1860. The UK current affairs section is still named after him.
- 2016: New record for fastest data rate for digital information
A new record for the fastest ever data rate for digital information was set by UCL researchers in the Optical Networks Group. They achieved a rate of 1.125 Tb/s as part of research on the capacity limits of optical transmission systems, designed to address the growing demand for fast data rates.
- 2015: Gene-edited immune cells treat ‘incurable’ leukaemia
A new treatment used ‘molecular scissors’ to edit genes and create designer immune cells, programmed to hunt out and kill drug resistant leukaemia. The treatment was used at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) on a one-year-old baby who had relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Following treatment, the baby was cancer free.
- 2015: Keeping fossil fuels in the ground – policy impact
UCL research found a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers. The research had a significant impact on policy.
- 2014: Top-rated university in Research Excellence Framework (REF)
UCL is the top-rated university in the UK for research strength.
- 2002: Transatlantic virtual handshake with MIT
UCL computer scientists make a groundbreaking transatlantic 'virtual handshake' over the internet with counterparts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002.
- 1994: Angel of the North sculpture – Turner Prize winner
UCL Slade School graduate Antony Gormley begins work on the iconic Angel of the North sculpture. He wins the Turner Prize the same year.
- 1984: HIV and CD4 – how HIV infects cells
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.
- 1974: Transatlantic network – precursor of the internet
Under the stewardship of UCL's Professor Peter Kirstein, UCL makes the first network connection to the USA – a precursor of the modern internet.
- 1966: Purity and Danger – most influential non-fiction
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.
- 1956: First successful British scientific rocket
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.
- 1947: Rebuilding London post-war
Professor Lord Holford is appointed as the planning consultant for the City of London's post-war rebuilding.
- 1931: Father of library science
Known as the father of modern library science, former student Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan establishes the Five Laws of Library Science in 1931.
- 1921: First London family planning clinic – Marie Stopes
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.
- 1904: Birth of electronics – thermionic valve
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.
- 1895: Discovery of noble gases – neon
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.
- 1888: Fingerprinting and forensic science
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.
- 1851: Architecture as an academic discipline
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.
- 1846: First operation under anaesthetic
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.
- 1830: Mental health reform
Professor of Psychiatry at UCL John Conolly revolutionises the treatment of mentally ill patients, overturning the harsh practice of mechanically restraining patients.
- 2014: Institute of Education merges with UCL
The Institute of Education (IOE) 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.
- 2013: Professor Michael Arthur becomes Provost
Professor Michael Arthur becomes Provost, the first clinical academic to hold the position in the university’s history. A hepatologist, Professor Arthur was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds before joining UCL. He has a significant international profile in higher education as well as medicine. He is former Chair of the Advisory Group for National Specialised Services for the Department of Health, the Worldwide Universities Network and the Russell Group.
- 2012: Launch of interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts and Sciences
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.
- 2012: UCL Academy mixed state school opens
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).
- 2012: School of Pharmacy merges with UCL
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".
- 2010: Francis Crick Institute – UCL as a founding partner
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.
- 2010: Yale UCL Collaborative
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.
- 2009: UCL Partners
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.
- 2006: Enterprise agenda
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)
- 2005: UCL degrees
UCL is given the power to award its own degrees. Previously, it had awarded University of London degrees.
- 2003: Professor Malcolm Grant becomes Provost
- Barrister, environmental lawyer, academic and public servant, Professor Grant becomes UCL’s ninth Provost in 2003. Grant's extensive writing covers many subjects including planning and environmental law, biotechnology regulation, finance and political management, central–local government relations and human rights. Professor Grant is awarded a CBE in 2003 for service to planning law and local government, and is knighted for services to higher education in 2013, his final year as Provost.
- 1999: Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith FRS becomes Provost
- Smith oversees successful research bids in the Joint Infrastructure Fund and through the Science Research Investment Fund, totaling £100 million. However, a worsening deficit and Smith’s academic restructuring attracts criticism from some, leading to his resignation in 2002 to resume research work. Sir Derek Roberts returns to his previous post on an interim basis until a successor is found.
- 1994: NHS Foundation Trust
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.
- 1986-99: Expanding strength and breadth
- 1999 The Eastman Dental Institute joins UCL
- 1999 The School of Slavonic and East European Studies merges with UCL
- 1997 The Institute of Neurology merges with UCL
- 1986 The Institute of Archaeology becomes part of UCL
- 1989: Sir Derek Roberts becomes Provost
- With a professional background largely in industrial scientific research, Roberts’ appointment marks somewhat of a shift. Expansion during his tenure includes the merger of UCL and the Institute of Child Health in 1996. Roberts retires in 1999.
- 1979: Sir James Lighthill FRS becomes Provost
- Lighthill is Lucasian Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cambridge University at the time of his appointment to Provost. Faced with substantial government cuts to higher education during the 1980s, UCL dramatically increases its funding from non-governmental organisations, thus maintaining its growth during this difficult time. Lighthill remains Provost for 10 years.
- 1978: Student housing
UCL's student accommodation expands to 1,500 places. There were just 350 places in 1961.
- 1975: Wates House
Wates House (UCL Bartlett) opens to accommodate the Faculty of the Built Environment.
- 1973: Physics and Astronomy
- 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.
- 1966: Lord Annan becomes Provost
- Against a backdrop of diminishing funds and student unrest, Lord Annan exerts strong diplomacy during his time as Provost and oversees a number of major building projects. The last major building to be opened during his tenure is Wates House, home of the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, in 1975, thanks in large part to a substantial donation from the Wates Foundation. Annan retires in 1978.
- 1965: A new home for UCL Laws
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.
- 1951: Sir Ifor Evans becomes Provost
- A former English student at the university, Evans is Education Director of the British Council during the war. During his time at UCL he retains a strong public presence as a well-known literary critic, writer and broadcaster. He oversees a period of great expansion at the university, retiring in 1966.
- 1943: Sir David Pye FRS becomes Provost
- Pye oversees a tumultuous time for the university after substantial damage is endured during the Second World War. In 1943, he remarks: “There was hardly a square foot of glass.” Previously an engineer, Pye had worked on the development of jet propulsion while Director of Scientific Research for the Air Ministry. He remains Provost until 1951.
- 1942: Lunch Hour Lectures begin
The Lunch Hour Lecture series begins, commencing UCL's proud tradition of public engagement by offering lectures open to all.
- 1940: War damage
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.
- 1930: Sir Allen Mawer FBA becomes Provost
- Sir Gregory Foster retired from his post as Provost in 1929 to focus on becoming Vice-Chancellor under the university’s new Statutes. He was replaced by Sir Allen Mawer, a former graduate student of UCL who had also become a Professor of English at Newcastle and Liverpool. Mawer held the position until 1942.
- 1921-28: Psychology and phonetics
- 1928 Charles Spearman becomes the first chair of Psychology
- 1921 UCL establishes a chair in Phonetics
- 1906: Building the Cruciform
- The Cruciform Building is completed. It houses the University College Hospital until 2000.
- 1906: Sir Gregory Foster becomes Provost
- It was decided in 1900 that there should once again be a salaried head of the university, with the title of Principal. In order to avoid confusion with the newly formed Principal of the University of London, Foster’s title was renamed Provost. Formerly a student and teacher at the university in the late 19th century, Foster was also President of the Union before taking up his post as UCL’s first Provost, a role he held until 1929.
- 1896: A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad
- Poet and classicist A. E. Housman publishes A Shropshire Lad, while Professor of Latin at UCL. It has remained in print ever since.
- 1893: England's first students' union
- 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.
- 1892: First chair in Egyptology, Sir Flinders Petrie
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 spends his winters excavating in Egypt, which he duly does.
- 1878: First university to teach women
UCL becomes the first university in England to welcome women to university education:
" 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, discussing the admission of female students to the university
- 1870: Slade School of Fine Art
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.
- 1846: First European operation under anaesthetic
Robert Liston performs the first operation under anaesthetic in Europe at University College Hospital.
- 1841: First Civil Engineering chair in the country
The first chair of Civil Engineering in 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.
- 1837: Unconventional mathematician – J. J. Sylvester
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.
- 1837: University College Hospital
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.
- 1833: Britain's first professor of Geography
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.
- 1828: England's first Chemistry, English, German and Italian departments
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.
- 1826: Unshackling education – UCL is established
- 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 principle 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.
Quotations sourced from Harte and North’s The World of UCL 1828-2004.