800th anniversary of 800 years ago

who ate hundred years?

 Last Updated: more recently than that 

archive of talks given in CL to celebrate 800th

Some nice pix of the history by q.blake

Allegedly, in 2009, it's the eight hundredth anniversary of the founding of the University of Cambridge. There are laboratory local and college and university global ways to contribute to this occasion though for an organisation this old, it seems to me that its jumping the gun to celebrate at 800 - why not wait til the 1000th anniversary and do things properly?

Let me tell one story that indicates how I feel the University of Cambridge has contributed to the world, and why one should look at things over rather longer timescales than most research funding agencies (longer than many research funding agencies actually exist:)

This is taken loosely from the fine book, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel . In this book, one of the options for synchronising time between ships sailing on long trans-oceanic journeys was proposed by professors in the University of Cambridge in the 17th century, but rejected by the Admiralty as being impractical - this entailed anchoring ships at even intervals around the various latitude and longitude points of the ocean, and firing cannons at periodic intervals (e.g. set by egg-timers).

The admirals pointed out that:

  • the chains for the anchors would take the entire iron production of the empire for the next few hundred years
  • the weight of the cannonballs for a years supply would sink the boats
  • the food supply ships for the sailors on the anchored boats would cover the entire ocean and would require all the wood in the world

    Despite this, the system described was deployed by the USA 3 hundred years later - only in orbit rather than on the sea. Its called GPS. So those chaps were right, but just got the engineering details wrong. Thats typical round here, as far as I can see, where it is almost as if Time Stands Still, and that is why you should show us the money.

    In the meantime, I think we should re-enact the flight of the Oxford Dons from Oxford all those centuries ago with a commemorative bike ride wearing full academic regalia (optional), from oxford to Cambridge:- in summer, it would be very pleasant, (sans regalia, at least) as the countriside en route is generally rather fine.