Famous Johnians

Six 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. 

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. Find out more

Hugh Dennis (1981), actor and comedian.

Thomas Adès (1992), composer, pianist and conductor. Find out more

Jamie Bamber (1992), actor.

Iestyn Davies (1999), countertenor.

Iestyn Davies
Iestyn Davies (photograph by Chris Sorensen)

Allan Clayton (2000), tenor.

Margaret Faultless (2011), violinist and musical director.

Emma Corrin (2015), actor. Find out more


Charles Hudson (1847), mountaineer. Completed the first guideless ascent of Mont Blanc.

Sir James Wordie (1910), polar explorer and scholar. Helped plan the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.

James Wordie
James Wordie in 1937

Frederick Spencer Chapman (1925), explorer and mountaineer.

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 Heath
Sir Robert Heath (by a follower of Cornelius Johnson)

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.

Walter Woon (1982), Attorney General of Singapore.

Literature and philosophy

Sir Thomas Wyatt (c 1519), poet and ambassador.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1559), courtier and poet.  Subject of the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship.

Thomas Nashe (1582), writer.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1585), courtier and literary patron. Patron of William Shakespeare.

Wriothesley and Hobbes
Henry Wriothesley (after Michiel Jansz. van Miereveld) and Thomas Hobbes (attributed to Jan Baptist Jaspers)

Thomas Hobbes (1607/08), philosopher.

Robert Herrick (1613), poet.

Matthew Prior (1683), poet and diplomat. Find out more

Prior and Wordsworth
Matthew Prior (studio of Hyacinthe Rigaud) and William Wordsworth (by Henry William Pickersgill)

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.

Laura Bates
Laura Bates

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

Cecil and Wentworth
William Cecil (British School) and Thomas Wentworth (by Anthony van Dyck)

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.

Wilberforce and Clarkson
William Wilberforce (by George Richmond) and Thomas Clarkson (by Henry Room)

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.

Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh (by Sanjay Bhattacharyya)

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.

Judith Slater (1983), British Consul General, Istanbul.

Fiona McIlwham (1992), diplomat.


St John Fisher (1484/5), Bishop of Rochester, cardinal and martyr.

St John Fisher
John Fisher (British School)

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.

John Williams
John Williams (by Gilbert Jackson)

Titus Oates (1668/9), priest and informer.

Henry Martyn (1797), missionary and translator.

Henry Martyn
Henry Martyn (by William M. Hay, after Thomas Hickey)

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.

Donald Coggan
Frederick Donald Coggan (by June Mendoza)

Peter Carnley (1968), Archbishop of Perth.

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.

Heberden and Darwin
William Heberden (by William Beechey) and Erasmus Darwin (by Joseph Wright of Derby)

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 Herschel
Sir John Frederick William Herschel, c. 1870 (photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron)

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

Harold Jeffreys
Sir Harold Jeffreys (by ZsuZsi Roboz)

Sir Edward Appleton (1911), physicist. Nobel Laureate and Royal Medal winner

Sir Frederic Bartlett (1912), psychologist.

Douglas Hartree (1915), mathematician and theoretical physicist.

Sir John Cockcroft (1922), physicist and engineer. Nobel Laureate and Royal Medal winner

Sir Charles Oatley (1922), electrical engineer. Royal Medal winner

Paul Dirac (1923), theoretical physicist. Nobel Laureate and 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.

Maurice Wilkes
Maurice Wilkes in 1969

Sir Rudolf Peierls (1935), theoretical physicist.

Maurice Wilkins (1935), molecular biologist. Nobel Laureate

Frederick Sanger (1936), biochemist and molecular biologist. Nobel Laureate and Royal Medal winner

Frederick Sanger
Dr Fred Sanger (by Paul Hodgson)

Sir Samuel Curran (1937), physicist and university administrator.

Vikram Sarabhai (1937), physicist and astronomer. Regarded as 'the father of the Indian Space Program'.

Sir Fred Hoyle (1939), astronomer. Royal Medal winnerFind out more

Sir David Cox (1942), statistician.

Abdus Salam (1946), theoretical physicist. Nobel Laureate and Royal Medal winner

Abdus Salam
Muhammad Abdus Salam (by Anthony Morris)

Allan Cormack (1947), nuclear physicist and theoretical mathematician. Nobel Laureate

Sir Roger Penrose (1952), mathematical physicist and philosopher of science. Nobel Laureate and Royal Medal winner

William Edmund Hick (1954), cognitive psychologist.

Seymour Papert (1954), computer scientist.

William Hamilton (1957), biologist.

Sharon Peacock (2013), microbiologist.

Social sciences

Alfred Marshall (1861), economist.

Alfred Marshall
Professor Alfred Marshall (by William Rothenstein)

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.

Jack Goody
Professor Sir Jack Goody (by Maggi Hambling)

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'. Find out more

Sir (Charles) Aubrey Smith (1881), cricketer and actor.

Aubrey Smith as an undergraduate
Aubrey Smith as an undergraduate

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.

Annamarie Phelps
Annamarie Phelps