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26 June, 2022 - 22:40 By News Desk

Newnham College celebrates 150 years of pioneering women

Cambridge University’s Newnham College celebrates its 150th anniversary next weekend (July 2-3) with a two-day Festival of Arts, Science and Ideas. 

Championing its pioneering, world-famous female alumnae who include Rosalind Franklin – the scientist who first captured the structure of DNA – primatologist Jane Goodall, and Bletchley Park codebreaker Joan Clarke, the college will bring together leading academics and former outstanding students to mark the college’s remarkable history with a series of inspirational talks.

Founded in 1871 by a group of radicals and pioneers in women’s higher education, Newnham College fought for women’s rights to take university qualifications, and claims Philippa Fawcett – the first woman to achieve the highest maths degree at Cambridge.

One of the highlights of the free-to-attend festival is a new short film about DNA pioneer Dr Rosalind Franklin. Her sister will deliver a talk about her life, while Dr Franklin’s nieces will read from her previously unseen correspondence.

Dr Fiona Gilbert and Dr Helen Young discuss the latest advances in Artificial Intelligence for cancer detection; astrophysicist Dr Ricarda Beckman will take their audiences on an exploration of the Milky Way; while CERN physicists Professor Tina Potter and Dr Maria Ubiali explore particle physics.

Joining live from the USA, Dr Alex Mackenzie celebrates the life of DNA pioneer June Broomhead Lindsey, whose work (along with that of Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and James Watson) contributed to the discovery of the DNA double helix. 

Alison Rose, Principal, Newnham College, said: “We’re throwing open our doors and inviting everyone to come and help celebrate everything that makes us so great. From our rebellious past, to our ground-breaking present, to our hopes and dreams for the future. It’s a huge thank you from us to you.”

Newnham College was established as a house in which young women could reside while attending lectures in Cambridge, long before they were allowed to become full members of the university with the granting of degrees to women in 1948. Newnham co-founders include Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, a campaigner for women’s suffrage. 

Newnham College will follow up the July weekend throughout the summer, featuring many more influential women that have passed through the renowned college’s doors. 

The weekend also features family events such as crazy golf, stargazing in an inflatable planetarium, workshops, story-telling, tours of the College’s library, archives, art collection and gardens, as well as exhibitions celebrating Newnham’s history, architecture and alumnae, plus book signings with Heffers in the festival’s Book Tent. Newnham College has selected some of Cambridge’s respected local chefs and mobile kitchens to cater the event.

The Festival is free to attend, and open to all. For tickets and the full programme of events visit

• Photograph courtesy of Newnham College

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