Thinking about Cambridge today and feeling slightly homesick. As I was browsing today at photos online (wow! I would have never thought of it when in Cambridge of the 17th century – how bizarre to have access to all this vast amount of information at the click of a button… but the absurdity of that, and how unbelievable I find it still, all photos are a story for another time! It is a little bit like time travelling!), I came across bits of information about the University of Cambridge, that I never got the chance to know since it happened after my time! I was always aware through my father’s appreciation and admiration of the University, of its importance and status, as well as major influence in academic and scientific achievements. Little did I know back then though, of its continuous success and ever growing prestige in the years to come and that eventually the very name of my home town would become inextricably connected to the University, and that Cambridge would automatically bring the famous University in people’s minds.
Up until my time, (the 17th century), Cambridge had already established its reputation and had a long prevailing history of academic prosperity and progress. Founded in 1209 and comprised of various colleges (31 to be exact), Cambridge came to life after some scholars left the University of Oxford, with its motto being Hinc lucem et pocula sacra, meaning: “From the University, we receive enlightenment and precious knowledge.”
Unfortunately I was just a resident there, under the protection of Sir Newton. Women were not allowed to study back then. They were first allowed as students much later, in 1869, at one of its colleges: Girton, although not on equal terms with its male students.
It has been the centre of religious controversies, myths and legends, as well as known for its infamous ‘rivalry’ with the University of Oxford. In the years to come Cambridge would become one of the top Universities in the world (often listed amongst the top 5 or top 3), known to be academically selective. The 4th oldest University in the world after the universities of Bologna, Oxford and Salamanca, Cambridge’s alumni include 90 Nobel laureates and various famous personas of varied professions.
My very own Isaac Newton studied in Cambridge, or I should stay thrived in the university there. He is quite famous, but to me he is my Newton, my dad’s good friend, the man who protected me, the great man that I got to personally see his work even while in progress. Except for a small break during the Cambridge plague, Newton spent most of his creative years at the University. Many people wrongly assume that this is where the infamous ‘Apple Incident’ happened. Truth is the apple tree standing below what used to be Newton’s room in the University dorms, is grown from propagation from the original one. Through my research I discovered that the ‘new’ tree in Cambridge, became an attraction for many tourists and fans from across the globe, with the sign right next to it reading: ‘Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple. This apple tree is a descendant by vegetative propagation of a tree which grew in the garden of Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham, and which is reputed to be the tree from which fell the apple that helped Newton to formulate his theory of gravitation. The original tree is said to have died about 1815-1820. The variety is ‘Flower of Kent’.’
Again I am overwhelmed by this strange feeling of having a first hand experience of something like the University of Cambridge and yet having missed all those centuries of its existence. I can speak to you of how things used to be, and at the same time I need to research for myself all those things that I missed. This duality, the splitting of time, can drive a sane person to madness – I am telling you. It is not an easy job to overcome this feeling. So I might as well do a bit more reading about the University and its development after my time. Always useful and interesting to fill the gaps!
Until next time!