For my second article about Cambridge I would like to focus on two colleges which to my mind have a strong ability to inspire, because of either their past students’ endeavours or because of their connection with past students’ amazing achievements. The almost magical ability that people have to inspire others, to my mind, is amazing. Even with no actual physical meeting, people can fill others with the urge, or seemingly new found ability to do or feel something. Just by exposure to the concept of one person’s actions or achievements, others can feel a boost in energy and then aspire to, and achieve, something that they possibly wouldn’t have achieved without that input.
Trinity College is located in Trinity Street in the centre of Cambridge and was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546. It can be entered via the great gate which features a statue of the founder himself. In this statue King Henry VIII isn’t holding a sceptre but a table leg! Apparently the more traditional sceptre was replaced by the table leg as a prank and it was allowed to remain. Supposedly, a further update was made to this situation where the table leg was replaced by a bicycle pump by mischievous students, but the table leg was reinstated.
The great gate leads through to the great court which features the fountain, clock tower and chapel.
The feature of Trinity that stands out for me is the number of their ex students that are indisputably famous; in this number are Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Ernest Rutherford, Charles Babbage, Lord Byron, Alfred Tennyson, Bertrand Russell and Francis Bacon. Approximately one third of Cambridge University’s Nobel prizes have been won by members of Trinity. We will never know if the reason that these people chose to study at Trinity was because they felt inspired by a former student and because of this they had a desire to tread the same ground as them, to be connected to them somehow. I would like to think that the high density of ex students with great achievements to their name has happened this way because of the power of inspiration and that they ultimately achieved more because of each other than they would have alone.
There are statues and brasses to commemorate a selection of these people in Trinity chapel.
Another part of Trinity is Neville’s court and here in the north cloister, Newton stamped his foot to time the echoes and then determine the speed of sound.
Within Trinity there is also ‘New Court’ which features a large tree in the centre. This tree has been falsely claimed to have been the tree under which Newton discovered gravity.
Just a short walk down the road, past King’s College onto Trumpington Street, is Corpus Christi College which was established in 1352.
As you enter the college via the main gate you get a stunning view of new court (also featured on the main picture) which features the current college chapel which was completed in 1827.
Corpus Christi college owns The Eagle pub which is a short walk away from the college and is famous for being Crick and Watson’s local pub. These famous men studied the structure of DNA in the nearby original Cavendish lab and when they made their breakthrough in 1953 they reportedly stood in The Eagle and said, ‘We have found the secret of life’. There is a plaque outside the pub to mark this event.
The Eagle pub was also the haunt for RAF airmen in WW2 and their graffiti can still be seen on the ceiling in the pub.
Old court and the Bursar’s garden are also beautiful parts of Corpus Christi College.
To finish my brief account of these two glorious colleges, I would like to reflect on the fact that we all have the chance to lift people higher by simply being the best that we can; as a teacher, the thought of achieving this aim is one of the main joys of the job.
Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) felt moved to express his regard of Newton in ‘Epitaph on Sir Isaac Newton’.
Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light.
As we also seek those who represent what we’d dearly love to be and as we gain inspiration from these people, I would like to think that we also appreciate and celebrate them in our own way.