Five centuries of success
From Nobel Prize winners and Prime Ministers to authors and architects, former students and Fellows of St John's have distinguished themselves in many areas of public and academic life. The list below offers a selection of some of the College's best-known alumni from the last 500 years, grouped by field of activity (and listed within each grouping by year of admission). The Library's Biographical Archive contains comprehensive information on all these individuals, as well as thousands of others. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more.
Arts and design
Edmund Sharpe (1828), architect and engineer.
Sir William Sterndale Bennett (1856), composer.
Sir Cecil Beaton (1922), photographer and designer for screen and theatre.
Sir Hugh Casson (1929), architect.
Jimmy Edwards (1938), actor.
Herbert Howells (1945), composer.
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1950), architectural historian.
Cedric Price (1952), architect.
Sir Jonathan Miller (1953), stage director, writer and broadcaster.
Jonathan Harvey (1957), composer.
Sir Derek Jacobi (1957), actor.
Sir David Pountney (1966), operatic director and librettist.
Sir Simon Keenlyside (1980), baritone.
Hugh Dennis (1981), actor and comedian.
Thomas Adès (1992), composer, pianist and conductor.
Jamie Bamber (1992), actor.
Iestyn Davies (1999), countertenor.
Allan Clayton (2000), tenor.
Emma Corrin (2015), actor.
Sir James Wordie (1910), polar explorer and scholar. Helped plan the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.
Sir Vivian Fuchs (1926), explorer and scientist. Completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica.
Sir Edmund Anderson (1549), judge and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
Sir Humphrey Winch (1570), judge and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.
Sir Robert Heath (1587), judge and Lord Chief Justice of England.
Sir Robert Booth (1644), judge and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.
Sir Codrington Edmund Carrington (1768), judge and Chief Justice of Ceylon.
Thomas Denman, 1st Baron Denman (1796), judge and Lord Chief Justice of England.
Sir William Martin (1824), judge and Chief Justice of New Zealand.
John Smalman Smith (1865), judge and Chief Justice of Lagos (Nigeria).
Sir Edward Marshall Hall (1877), lawyer. Known as 'The Great Defender'.
Edwin Charles Clark (1883), jurist and Regius Professor of Civil Law.
Donald Kingdon (1902), Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Asif Ali Asghar Fyzee (1922), lawyer and first Indian ambassador to Egypt.
Glanville Williams (1931), jurist and law reformer.
Maharaj Nagendra Singh (1934), Indian judge and President of the International Court of Justice.
Hon. Chong Jin Wee (1935), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Singapore.
Ahmad Mohamed Ibrahim (1936), Attorney General of Singapore.
Stanley Berwin (1943), lawyer.
Literature and philosophy
Sir Thomas Wyatt (c 1519), poet and ambassador.
Thomas Nashe (1582), writer.
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1585), courtier and literary patron. Patron of William Shakespeare.
Thomas Hobbes (1607/08), philosopher.
Robert Herrick (1613), poet.
Matthew Prior (1683), poet and diplomat.
William Wordsworth (1787), poet and Poet Laureate. Find out more
William Barnes (1838), poet and philologist.
Samuel Butler (1854), writer and amateur artist. Find out more
Richard Eberhart (1927), poet and US Poet Laureate.
Frederic Raphael (1950), screenwriter, novelist and journalist. Academy Award winner.
Piers Paul Read (1959), novelist, historian and biographer.
Douglas Adams (1971), novelist and screenwriter.
Jennifer Egan (1985), novelist and short story writer. Pulitzer Prize winner.
Andrew Gilligan (1992), journalist.
Tom Rob Smith (1998), novelist and screenwriter.
Laura Bates (2004), writer and activist.
Jin Yong (2005), novelist and newspaper editor.
Politics and government
Sir John Cheke (c 1527), royal tutor to Prince Edward, administrator and humanist. First Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge.
Roger Ascham (1530), royal tutor to Princess Elizabeth, and advisor to Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Find out more
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (1535), royal minister. Find out more
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (1609), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton (c 1625), politician and Lord High Treasurer.
William Wilberforce (1776), politician, philanthropist and slavery abolitionist.
Thomas Clarkson (1779), slavery abolitionist. Find out more
Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich and 1st Earl of Ripon (1799), Prime Minister.
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (1800), Prime Minister and scholar.
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1803), Prime Minister.
Alfred Domett (1829), Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Sir Francis Bell (1869), lawyer and Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Kenchō Suematsu, 1st Viscount Suematsu (1881), Japanese politician.
Mohammad Ismail Khan (1901), Muslim politician.
Manmohan Singh (1955), Prime Minister of India.
John Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley (1966), Member of the House of Lords.
Mervyn King, Baron King of Lothbury (1972), Member of the House of Lords.
Geoffrey Onyeama (1978), Nigerian politician.
St John Fisher (1484/5), Bishop of Rochester, cardinal and martyr.
Edwin Sandys (c 1535), Archbishop of York.
William Morgan (1564/5), Bishop of St Asaph and biblical translator.
St Richard Gwyn (1571), martyr and Welsh-language poet.
St Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel (1576), magnate and alleged traitor.
John Williams (1598), Archbishop of York.
Titus Oates (1668/9), priest and informer.
Henry Martyn (1797), missionary and translator.
George Selwyn (1826), Bishop of New Zealand and Bishop of Lichfield.
John William Colenso (1832), Bishop of Natal.
William Wharton Cassels (1877), missionary and member of the 'Cambridge Seven'.
Donald Coggan (1928), Archbishop of Canterbury.
Peter Carnley (1968), Archbishop of Perth.
Bernard Ntahoturi (1973), Archbishop of Burundi.
Sciences and mathematics
John Dee (1542), mathematician, astrologer and antiquary.
William Gilbert (1558), natural philosopher. Discoverer of the Earth's magnetic field.
Brook Taylor (1701), mathematician.
William Heberden (1724), physician.
Erasmus Darwin (1750), physician and natural philosopher.
William Gregor (1780), mineralogist. Discoverer of titanium.
Sir John Herschel (1808), mathematician and astronomer. Royal Medal winner
John Stevens Henslow (1813), botanist and Church of England clergyman.
James Joseph Sylvester (1831), mathematician. Royal Medal winner
John Couch Adams (1839), astronomer. Discoverer of the planet Neptune. Find out more
Richard Proctor (1856), astronomer and science writer.
Baron Kikuchi Dairoku (1873), mathematician and Japanese education administrator.
Sir Charles Parsons (1873), engineer. Inventor of the steam turbine engine.
Sir Joseph Larmor (1876), theoretical physicist. Royal Medal winner
Sir (John) Ambrose Fleming (1877), electrical engineer and university teacher.
William Bateson (1879), biologist. Royal Medal winner
Sir Harold Jeffreys (1910), geophysicist. Royal Medal winner
Sir Frederic Bartlett (1912), psychologist.
Douglas Hartree (1915), mathematician and theoretical physicist.
Sir Charles Oatley (1922), electrical engineer. Royal Medal winner
Sir Nevill Mott (1924), theoretical physicist. Nobel laureate
John Tuzo Wilson (1930), geophysicist and geologist.
Sir Maurice Wilkes (1931), mathematician and computer technologist. Inventor of the first stored program digital computer.
Sir Rudolf Peierls (1935), theoretical physicist.
Maurice Wilkins (1935), molecular biologist. Nobel Laureate
Sir Samuel Curran (1937), physicist and university administrator.
Vikram Sarabhai (1937), physicist and astronomer. Regarded as 'the father of the Indian Space Program'.
Sir David Cox (1942), statistician.
Allan Cormack (1947), nuclear physicist and theoretical mathematician. Nobel Laureate
Sir Roger Penrose (1952), mathematical physicist and philosopher of science. Royal Medal winner
William Edmund Hick (1954), cognitive psychologist.
Seymour Papert (1954), computer scientist.
William Hamilton (1957), biologist.
Alfred Marshall (1861), economist.
William Halse Rivers Rivers (1893), anthropologist and psychologist. Royal Medal winner
Gregory Bateson (1922), anthropologist and communications theorist.
Louis Leakey (1922), archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist.
Sir Jack Goody (1938), social anthropologist.
Johannes de Villiers Graaff (1947), welfare economist.
Eric Maskin (1988), economist. Nobel Laureate
James Ogilvie Fairlie (1827), golfer. Regarded as 'the father of the Open Championship'.
Sir (Charles) Aubrey Smith (1881), cricketer and actor.
Freddie Brown (1929), cricketer.
Norman Yardley (1934), cricketer.
Clem Thomas (1937), rugby player.
Trevor Bailey (1946), cricketer, broadcaster and journalist.
Chris Brasher (1947), athlete, sports journalist and businessman. Co-founder of the London Marathon.
Sid Waddell (1959), darts commentator and television producer.
Mike Brearley (1960), cricketer.
Rob Andrew (1983), rugby player.
Annamarie Phelps (1984), rower.