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The Story of Pythagoras

Built sometime between 1180 and 1200 C.E., the School of Pythagoras is the oldest extant secular building in Cambridge. Today it is home to the St. John’s College Archives Centre, yet as the following articles reveal, this one-time medieval town-house bears both physical and textual traces of a rich and varied past.

Click on each of the images below to explore a particular period in the School’s long and fascinating history.

From the beginning: The Stone House and the Dunning Family

The earliest history of the School of Pythagoras from its foundation in the late twelfth century.

Merton’s House of Scholars

Read about the vision of Walter de Merton, Lord Chancellor to Henry III, for the School following its purchase in 1270 and the building’s long connection with Merton College, Oxford.

The Academy of Newton Bosworth

An account of the short-lived efforts of Newton Bosworth, an enterprising young teacher from Peterborough, who sought to transform Pythagoras into a boys’ boarding-school in the nineteenth century.

Spooks and spiders: Pythagoras and the foundations of Newnham College

Memories of Newnham’s first female students, who  resided at Merton Hall prior to the establishment of Newnham College on Sidgwick Avenue in 1875.

Poetry, Plays and Pythag: Adapting the School in the Twentieth Century

Evidence of the School of Pythagoras as a literary inspiration and the history of its conversion into a theatre after having been purchased by St. John’s College in 1959.

The St. John’s College Archive Centre

Information about the building’s modern transformation and its purpose in the twenty-first century.

What’s in a Name? (Or, what has Pythagoras got to do with this anyway?)

Explore the different theories for the School’s association with the ancient philosopher.

Further Reading

Suggestions for further reading.