History of the archive
Thomas Baker, the College's first historian, who died in 1740, left a collection of about forty manuscript volumes that include both notes on the history of St John's and biographical notes on College Members. Another Fellow, J. E. B. Mayor, edited Baker's History of the College of St John the Evangelist for publication, and also published an edition of the College Admissions Registers, with extensively researched biographical notes, for the period from 1629 to 1715. Publication was continued by Sir Robert Scott (Master 1908-33) for the Registers up to 1802. Scott and another Fellow, F. P. White (Fellow 1919-69), actively researched into the lives of College Members and together provided much of the information on Johnians published in J. and J. A. Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses. This is a reference work covering all Members of Cambridge University up to 1900. White also began to transfer all the existing information onto individual record sheets, so that there is now a single sheet, or page in a bound volume, for every Member, many of them annotated and cross-referenced to other sources. White also began to add to these from his daily searches through the newspapers and leading journals, a process continued by Norman Buck (Sub Librarian 1956-82) and then by Malcolm Pratt, Sub Librarian, who retired in 1990. The College was also one of the earliest clients of an international press cutting agency, receiving regular cuttings from the 1930s onwards.
In 1990 the paper archive was supplemented by a database of biographical information, which was kept up to date as a result of members of College providing details of what they have gone on to do since leaving the College. Together the archive and the database provided material for the Register of Twentieth-Century Johnians. Volume 1 (including all those who matriculated between 1900 and 1949) was published in 2004. The backbone of each entry are the details of birth, parentage and schooling (recorded for every member in the Admissions Registers), together with basic details of College and University career, but supplemented wherever possible by information on later occupations, achievements, marriages and children. Johnians who matriculated in the first half of the twentieth century were given an opportunity to check their entries. There is no plan to continue the register beyond 1950. On the decision of the College Council the database ceased to be used in December 2022 and the Biographical Office was closed in 2023.
Although it is the comprehensiveness of the collection that makes it special, the Biographical Archive includes material on numerous famous Johnians.
Former students and Fellows of St John's have distinguished themselves in many areas of public and academic life over the past 500 years.
Johnian Nobel Laureates
Since their establishment in 1895, Nobel Prizes have, to date, been won by nine Johnians - including one double-winner in Frederick Sanger.
Johnian Prize and Medal winners
Click on the links below for information about recipients of these prestigious prizes and medals:
The Royal Society:
The British Academy:
The Royal Astronomical Society:
The Royal Society of Chemistry:
The Institution of Engineering and Technology:
The Institute of Physics:
The Royal Academy of Engineering:
Women at St John's
Women have played a crucial role in shaping the College community, starting with our Foundress, Lady Margaret Beaufort. There have been many significant milestones between the sixteenth century and now, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to membership of the College.