Cambridge celebrates a double whammy

December 10, 2004

Cambridge University scored a double first this week. An anonymous US donor gave $1.85 million (£960,000) to set up an endowment fund to honour cosmologist Stephen Hawking, and the institution also topped The Times Higher 's first international science league table.

The donation was given to "honour the life and research" of Professor Hawking. It will be used to set up an endowment fund in his name.

The money is well spent - Cambridge is the best in the world for science, according to a unique poll published in this week's Times Higher . Oxford University came second and US universities - Harvard, California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - came in at third, fourth and fifth positions.

Up to £300,000 of the original donation - and any income generated by the remainder - will be used to "bolster and sustain" research in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

Professor Hawking will choose which research projects are supported. After his death, four senior academics will allocate the funds.

Professor Hawking said: "The ultimate aim of cosmology is to understand the origin of the universe.

"How does fundamental theory produce the marvellous and complex structure we observe today from a simple beginning?

"The purpose of the endowment is to support research into these questions and related issues."

The gift of an endowment in the name of a living academic is "rare but not unprecedented", according to the university.

The Times Higher rankings are drawn from an expert peer-review panel of 1,300 academics around the world, weighted for subject specialism and location. They cover the physical and life sciences except for medicine, which will be the subject of an analysis in The Times Higher in early 2005.

David Secher, director of research services at Cambridge, said: "It is pleasing but perhaps not surprising that the home of Newton, Darwin, Crick and Watson and now Stephen Hawking is perceived as the world leader in science."

Today, The Times Higher also publishes the peer ranking of the world's top universities in engineering and information technology. Here, Berkeley emerges in the top slot.

Imperial College London and Cambridge appear in fifth and eighth places, respectively.


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