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Gonville and Caius College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridgemarker in Cambridgemarker, Englandmarker. The college is often referred to simply as "Caius" ( ), after its second founder, John Keys, who fashionably latinised the spelling of his name after studying in Italymarker.


Gonville and Caius is the fourth-oldest college at the University of Cambridge and the third-wealthiest. The College has been attended by many students who have gone on to significant accomplishment, including twelve Nobel Prize winners, the second-most of any Oxbridge college (Trinity College, Cambridgemarker has the most). In 2008 and 2009, it was ranked fourth in the Tompkins Table, the annual academic ranking of Cambridge colleges.

Academic accomplishment

The college has long historical associations with medical teaching, especially due to its alumni physicians: John Caius (who gave the college the caduceus in its insignia), and William Harvey. Other famous alumni in the sciences include Francis Crick (discoverer of the structure of DNA), Sir James Chadwick (discoverer of the neutron), and Sir Howard Florey (inventor of penicillin). Stephen Hawking, Cambridge's Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, is a current fellow of the College. The college also maintains world-class academic programmes in many other disciplines, including economics, English literature and others.

Gonville and Caius is said to own or have rights to much of the land in Cambridge. Several streets in the city, such as Harvey Road, Glisson Road, and Gresham Road, are named after alumni of the College.


The College was first founded, as Gonville Hall, by Edmund Gonville, Rector of Terrington St Clementmarker in Norfolk in 1348, making it the fourth-oldest surviving college. When Gonville died three years later, he left a struggling institution with almost no money. The executor of his will, William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich, stepped in, transferring the college to the land close to the college he had just founded, Trinity Hallmarker, and renamed it The Hall of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, endowing it with its first buildings.

By the sixteenth century, the college had fallen into disrepair, and in 1557 it was refounded by Royal Charter as Gonville and Caius College by the physician John Caius. John Caius was master of the college from 1559 until shortly before his death in 1573. He provided the college with significant funds and greatly extended the buildings.

During his time as Master, Caius accepted no payment but insisted on several unusual rules. He insisted that the college admit no scholar who “is deformed, dumb, blind, lame, maimed, mutilated, a Welshman, or suffering from any grave or contagious illness, or an invalid, that is sick in a serious measure” (see Brooke's History, p. 69-70, where it is suggested that 'Wallicum' is a scribal error for 'Gallicum'). Caius also built a three-sided court, Caius Court, “lest the air from being confined within a narrow space should become foul”. Caius did however found the college as a strong centre for the study of medicine, a tradition that it aims to keep to this day.

By 1630, the college had expanded greatly, having around 25 fellows and 150 students, but numbers fell over the next century, only returning to the 1630 level in the early nineteenth century. Since then the college has grown considerably and now has one of the largest undergraduate populations in the university.

The college first admitted women as fellows and students in 1979. It now has nearly 100 fellows, over 700 students and about 200 staff.

Gonville and Caius is the third wealthiest of all Cambridge colleges with an estimated financial endowment of £115m and net assets of £140.5m in 2006.

Caius also admits academically accomplished Americanmarker and other foreign students for its various summer programmes, the most prominent of which has been organized in the United States by the University of New Hampshiremarker, although these programmes are not to the Tripos standard.

The college’s present Master, the 41st, is Sir Christopher Hum.

Rules and traditions

Communal dinner at Gonville and Caius College.
Gonville and Caius College is one of the most traditional colleges of Cambridge. It is one of the few remaining colleges which enforces attendance of its students at communal dinners, known as 'Hall'. Consisting of a three-course meal served by waiting staff, undergraduates must buy 43 'dinner tickets' per term for Michaelmas and Lent terms, but only 40 in Easter term. Hall takes place in two sittings, with the second sitting known as 'Formal Hall', which must be attended wearing gowns. At Formal Hall, the students rise as the Fellows proceed in, a gong is rung, and a Latin benediction is read.

The prose runs thus: "Benedic, Domine, nobis et donis tuis quae ex largitate tua sumus sumpturi; et concede ut, ab iis salubriter enutriti, tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus, per Jesum Christum dominum nostrum; mensae caelestis nos participes facias, Rex aeternae gloria."

It is tradition in the College that only the Fellows may walk on the grass.

The college also enforces the system of exeats, or official permission to leave the college. At the end of term students must obtain permission from their tutors to leave the college. If they do not, they are fined.


The first buildings to be erected on the college’s current site date from 1353 when Bishop Bateman built Gonville Court. The college chapel was added in 1393 with the Old Hall (used until recently as a library) and Master’s Lodge following in the next half century. Most of the stone used to build the college came from Ramsey Abbey near Ramsey, Cambridgeshiremarker. Gonville and Caius has the oldest college chapel in Oxbridge to have been in continuous use as such.

On the refoundation by Dr Caius, the college was expanded and updated. In 1565 the building of Caius Court began, and he planted an avenue of trees in what is now known as Tree Court. Caius was also responsible for the building of the college’s three gates, symbolising the path of academic life. On matriculation, one arrives at the Gate of Humility (near the Porters’ Lodge). In the centre of the college one passes through the Gate of Virtue regularly. And finally, graduating students pass through the Gate of Honour on their way to the neighbouring Senate House to receive their degrees. The students of Gonville and Caius commonly refer to the fourth gate in the college, between Tree Court and Gonville Court, which also contains the access to the toilets, as The Gate of Necessity.

Gonville Court was refaced in a classical design in the 1750s, and the Old Library and hall were designed by Anthony Salvin in 1854. On the wall of the hall hangs a college flag that was flown at the South Polemarker by Cambridge's Edward Adrian Wilson during the famous 1912 expedition.

St Michael's and St Mary's Courts lie across Trinity Streetmarker on land surrounding St Michael's Church. The full formation of St Michael's Court only occurred in the 1930s, with the building at the south side of the court of a block overlooking the market place.

Students and fellows are accommodated in all of the courts on the central site.

Interior north-east corner of Waterhouse Building.
Renaissance figure sculpture set into the north-east corner of Waterhouse Building.
The Gate of Honour.

Caius also has one of the largest and most architecturally impressive student libraries in Oxbridge, housed in the Cockerell Building. Previously the Seeley History Library and the Squire Law Librarymarker, Caius acquired the lease on the Cockrell Building in the 1990s. The college library was relocated from Gonville Court in the summer of 1996, following an extensive renovation of the Cockrell Building.

Caius owns a substantial amount of land between West Rd and Selwyn Avenue. Set in idyllic landscaped gardens, the modern Harvey Court (named after William Harvey and designed by Sir Leslie Martin.) was built on the West Rd site in 1961.

Adjacent to Harvey Court is the £13 million Stephen Hawking Building, which opened its doors to first-year undergraduates in October 2006. Providing en-suite accommodation for 75 students and eight fellows, as well as providing conference facilities in the vacations, the Stephen Hawking Building boasts some of the highest-standard student accommodation in Cambridge.

The college owns a large number of residential properties across Cambridge, many of which are used to house both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The Old Courts

Tree Court is the largest of the Old Courts. It is so named because John Caius planted an avenue of trees there. Although none of the original trees survived, the court retains a number of trees and the tree-lined avenue, which is unusual for a Cambridge front court. The interior north-east corner of the Waterhouse Building can be seen on the left.

Gonville Court, though remodelled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is the oldest part of the college. The interior east side of Gonville Court, opposite Hall, can be seen on the right.

The Gate of Honour (to the left), at the south side of Caius Court, though the most direct way from the Old Courts to the College Library (Cockerell Building, behind the wall on the right), is only used for special occasions such as graduation. The Senate House (on the left) as well as King’s College Chapel (directly behind the Gate of Honour) can also be seen.

Notable members

Nobel Prize laureates

Notable alumni

Main listing: :Category:Alumni of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Notable fellows and Masters

See also :Category:Fellows of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Notable organ scholars


See also



  • Brooke, C. A history of Gonville and Caius College. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 1985 (corrected reprint, 1996). ISBN 0-85115-423-9.

External links

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