History of Clare Hall


Clare Hall was founded in 1966 on the initiative of Clare College. It was envisaged as a college with three main classes of members: university teaching officers whose principal focus was research; visiting academics who would stay in Cambridge for between six months and a year; and graduate students. It would have a special link with Clare College, primarily as a satellite of it. It was seen as an Institute for Advanced Study, loosely modelled on the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton but shaped by its being a part of the University of Cambridge. The details of its setting up were worked out by Sir Eric (later Lord) Ashby, the Master of Clare College, and Dr Richard Eden, together with Richard Northam, the Senior Tutor of Clare; they were well described by Lord Ashby in a speech marking the College’s tenth anniversary.

Clare provided the site for the new College, on the corner of Grange Road and Herschel Road, and elected Brian Pippard, a physicist and Fellow of Clare, to be the first President. Its initial endowment was provided by Clare and by the Old Dominion Foundation (now renamed the Andrew Mellon Foundation). The College’s new buildings, designed by the eminent architect Ralph Erskine, were opened in 1969, by which time twelve research students were living in Elmside, the house fronting onto Grange Road which had been converted into accommodation. The original college buildings are listed Grade 2* as buildings of national importance.

Growth and development

The College expanded slowly through the 1970s, mainly reflecting the growth in the number of research students in the university, and a neighbouring house on Herschel Road was bought, to be added to later by two further buildings in the college grounds. As a result of this expansion, in 1984, Clare Hall became a fully independent college with its own statutes and Governing Body. Its relationship with Clare inevitably changed, though the two colleges have continued to maintain close links.

In 1978 the American scholar and philanthropist Obert Tanner set up the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, taking place annually in a group of leading American universities, Oxford and Cambridge. The Cambridge lectures were fixed in Clare Hall, and since then have provided a focus for the College’s outward-looking intellectual activities, complementing its internal series of seminars and colloquia. Their high point was a week-long symposium on time and the calendar in 2000, celebrating the millennium year.

In the summer of 1996, the College purchased a substantial property, formerly the Cambridge home of Lord Rothschild, five minutes walk from the main college site at the western end of Herschel Road. This provided an opportunity to increase the number of apartments for Visiting Fellows and rooms for graduate students. After further development, the property was renamed West Court, and it now provides meeting rooms, studies, apartments, study bedrooms, a gym, an indoor swimming pool and a beautiful garden. Right on the west edge of Cambridge, abutting on farmland, it provides the perfect quiet environment in which researchers can work.

Outstanding contributions

Recognition of a Research Project usually comes long after the work and ideas on which it is based.  Clare Hall has made an important contribution to the research careers of many of its members and we are happy to have played a part in some truly inspirational projects.

Many former Clare Hall Visiting Fellows have been awarded Nobel Prizes:

Ivor Giaever - Nobel Prize for Physics in 1973

Joseph Brodsky - a Visiting Fellow and poet in residence in Clare Hall in 1977-8, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987

Seamus Heaney - a Life Member of Clare Hall, received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past"

Paul Berg - Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1980 for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA

Kim Dae Jung - Nobel Peace Prize 2000 for his 'work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular'

David Thouless - Nobel Prize for  Physics 2016 for his work on condensed matter physics

William Nordhaus - Nobel Prize for Economics for his work on economics and climate change

More information on these individuals and other College history may be found by contacting the Archives.


Clare Hall - 50th Anniversary Book

Clare Hall 40: The Founding and History of a College for Advanced Study

Clare Hall: The Origins and Development of a College for Advanced Study, Richard Eden, Clare Hall, 2009

Sometimes in Cambridge. Memoirs, Richard Eden, Clare Hall, October 2012

These books are all available to buy; please contact the Porters Lodge or the Development Office 



Clare Hall's Archives chart the foundation of a new graduate College in the 1960s at a time when the University of Cambridge was expanding. Today, they continue to reflect the national and international research interests of its members. Learn more about The College Archives.