Wolfson College, Oxford

Wolfson College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Located in north Oxford along the River Cherwell, Wolfson is an all-graduate college with over sixty governing body fellows, in addition to both research and junior research fellows. It caters to a wide range of subjects, from the humanities to the social and natural sciences. The diversity of the college is reflected in its deeply international character and vibrant student body. The current president of Wolfson College is Hermione Lee. The liberal philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin was the college's first president, and was instrumental in its founding. The college houses The Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust and the annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture. As of 2006, the college had a financial endowment of £33.5 million.

History and character

Wolfson's first president Sir Isaiah Berlin, the influential political philosopher and historian of ideas, was instrumental in the college's founding in 1965. The college began its existence with the name Iffley College, which offered a new community for graduate students at Oxford, particularly in natural and social sciences. Twelve other colleges of the university provided grants to make the establishment of Iffley possible. As of 1965, the college had neither a president nor a building. Berlin set out to change this, eventually securing support from the Wolfson Foundation and Ford Foundation in 1966 to establish a separate site for the college, which included 'Cherwell', the former residence of J.S. Haldane and his family, as well as new buildings built around it. Isaac Wolfson generously contributed to the foundation of the college. In recognition of his contribution the college's name was changed to Wolfson College. But Berlin's work as the president of the college was far from over. Formally taking over the reins of the college in 1967, he envisioned Wolfson to be a centre of academic excellence but, unlike many other colleges at Oxford, also bound it to a strong egalitarian and democratic ethos. In Berlin's words, the college would be 'new, untrammelled and unpyramided'. His ideals were largely achieved. Wolfson is perhaps the most egalitarian college at Oxford, with few barriers between students and fellows. There is no high table, only one common room for all the members of the college, and gowns are worn only on special occasions. Graduate students serve on the college's governing body and participate in General Meetings. Berlin's reputation and presence in the early years also helped shape the intellectual character of the college, attracting many distinguished fellows like Niko Tinbergen, who won a Nobel Prize for his studies in animal behavior in 1973. Berlin's own prominence in the humanities helped attract many graduate students like Henry Hardy, interested in political philosophy and the history of ideas.

Buildings and grounds
The college owns land on both sides of the River Cherwell. It has one of the most modern buildings of all the Oxford colleges. The construction of the main building of the college was completed in 1974. It was designed by the Powell and Moya Architects. The college's main building has three quadrangles: the central quadrangle named the Berlin Quad after Isaiah Berlin, as well as the Tree Quad built around established trees, and the River Quad into which the Cherwell has been diverted to form a punt harbour. One of the distinctive features of the grounds is the preservation of mature trees around and within the buildings. The college has student accommodation in the main college building, in three child-friendly courtyards surrounded by family housing, and also has similar accommodation in a scattering of purpose-built blocks, including the Robin Gandy Buildings, and in existing houses on Linton Road, Chadlington Road and Garford Road. The college also owns the adjacent house and orchard which is currently occupied by the Bishop of Oxford.

Being a graduate college, it had, as of 2008, 614 students, 454 of whom were DPhils. The remainder were studying for the MPhil, MSc, MSc by Research, MSt, MSt by Research, MBA, EMBA, MLitt, MLitt by Research, BPhil, and Cert degrees. The college does not accept MJur or LLB candidates. It is also home to Oxford's Centre for Korean Studies and the International Association of Tibetan Studies. It was also home to the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford, which has now moved to an independent location of the city.

The college library, which occupies both the floors of one wing of the college's main building, has the main library on the first floor, approachable from the side of the dining hall and the lodge, and two other collections, called the Floersheimer Room and the Hornik Memorial Room on the ground floor. A mezzanine floor in the main library has books as well as carrels for individual use of graduate students of the college. The library has already emerged as an extensive collection of books and journals.

Common room and hall
The college has one common room for fellows and graduate students. The common room has two floors: the upper common room, with an attached terrace overlooking the punting harbour, which has a bar and a coffee counter, and the lower common room, which has magazines and newspapers. The college's hall is one of the few in the university to have common table. The ' Haldane Room', a hall adjacent to the dining hall proper, is where formal meals, especially the convocation lunch, are held.

The gardens
The college owns grounds on both sides of the river, including two meadows on the opposite side, towards Marston. It has a small but well maintained garden behind its main building, and beside the river. The garden is landscaped well on the river-bank, with a flight of steps leading up to a green-house and a sundial. The college also has a smaller garden beside the Robin Gandy building, which stands on the banks of the river.

Sports and punting harbour
The college own a squash court and has facilities for playing Table Tennis. Members of the college also go to the Summertown Community Centre to play badminton. The college participates in all other sporting events organised by the university, including cricket and soccer. The college also participates in the inter-university rowing events every year. The college is one of the few in Oxford with its own punting harbour, with a well maintained fleet of punts for use by all members of the college community. There is a boat club on the ground floor of the 'C' Block, for this purpose, which is under the supervision of the Admiral of Punts, who is selected annually from the existing student body of the college. The college also has a croquet lawn.

Notable alumni

  • Joe Andrew, Professor of Russian Literature at Keele University
  • Dame Kay Davies, FRS, Human Geneticist.
  • Richard Ellis, CBE, FRS, extragalactic astronomer, Steele Professor at Caltech and former Director, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge
  • Artur Ekert, one of the pioneers of quantum cryptography, and winner of the Maxwell and Hughes medals, and the Descartes Prize
  • Jonathan Foster, leading academic in cognitive neuroscience, consultant neuropsychologist, writer, broadcaster
  • Henry Hardy, author and editor, publisher of Isaiah Berlin's papers
  • Nigel Hitchin, FRS, British mathematician, winner of the Sylvester Medal
  • Josef W. Meri, leading specialist in Islam in the pre-modern period, Islamic cultural and social history
  • Michele Mosca, quantum scientist known for his work on quantum algorithms and NMR quantum computation
  • Iain Pears, popular British novelist, art historian

  • Muhammad Sohail Anwar Choudhry, Senior Official (Deputy Secretary) for Government of Punjab, Pakistan

  • Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, Prosecutor in the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, counsel before Special Courts in East Timor and Sierra Leone
  • Hon. Justice Francisco Rezek, distinguished Brazilian jurist and member of the International Court of Justice and formerly Foreign Minister of Brazil
  • Dame Hazel Genn, DBE, QC (Hon), FBA, leading authority on civil justice whose work has had a major influence on policy-makers around the world

  • Simon Upton, formerly Minister of Health, Environment and Science and Technology and member of the National Party
  • Mike Woodin, former principal speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales (later Fellow of Balliol)
See also Former students of Wolfson College, Oxford

Notable fellows
  • Samson Abramsky, FRS, computer scientist and developer of domain theory in logic form, game semantics and categorical quantum mechanics
  • Leonie Archer, historian and leading authority on women in Jewish antiquity
  • Sir Isaiah Berlin, OM, CBE, regarded as one of the twentieth century's most influential liberal philosophers
  • John Barnes, developer of the Ada programming language
  • William Bradshaw, Baron Bradshaw, Member of the House of Lords
  • Donald Broadbent, experimental psychologist
  • Sebastian Brock, leading expert in Syriac language
  • Amit Chaudhuri, Novelist
  • Norman Davies, noted English historian of Welsh descent
  • Simon Digby, oriental scholar
  • Sir Anthony Epstein, CBE, FRS, discovered the Epstein-Barr virus
  • Robin Gandy, mathematician and logician
  • Sir Raymond Hoffenberg, KBE, endocrinologist and medical scientist and prominent opponent of apartheid in South Africa
  • Sir Tony Hoare, FRS, computer scientist, developer of Quicksort the widely used sorting algorithm
  • Roger Moorey, British archeologist and keeper of antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford
  • Sir Gareth Roberts, FRS, physicist and influential figure in shaping British policy on the sciences
  • Sumit Sarkar, Indian historian, former Professor of history, Delhi University
  • Erich Wolf Segal, American author and screenwriter, wrote the screenplay for The Beatles' 1968 motion picture Yellow Submarine
  • Steven Schwartz, Vice Chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia
  • Jon Stallworthy, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Oxford, UK
  • Bryan Sykes, world renowned human geneticist
  • Niko Tinbergen, Dutch ethologist and Nobel prize winner
  • Geza Vermes, Christian and Jewish historian and leading authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls
See also Fellows of Wolfson College, Oxford

Notes and references

College name Wolfson College Motto " Humani nil alienum" ( Homo sum, humani nil alienum a me puto) (A quote from the Roman playwright Terence: I am a human being and I consider nothing that concerns human beings alien to me) Named after Sir Isaac Wolfson, Bt., FRS Established 1965 Sister college Darwin College, Cambridge President Professor Hermione Lee Undergraduates none (graduate-only college) Graduates 614 (2008) Homepage Boatclub Presidents
  • Sir Isaiah Berlin, 1967”“1975
  • Sir Henry Fisher, 1975”“85
  • Sir Raymond Hoffenberg, 1985”“93
  • Professor Jim Kennedy, (acting), 1993”“1994
  • Sir David Smith, 1994”“2000
  • Professor Jon Stallworthy, (acting), 2000
  • Sir Gareth Roberts, 2000”“2007
  • Professor Jon Stallworthy, (acting), 2007”“2008
  • Professor Hermione Lee, 2008”“present

Building Activity

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