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Few places have impacted the world like Oxford.

A kaleidoscope of thought, problem-solving, and talent, Oxford turns 1,000 years of history into world-beating science.

Here are just a few stories that show Oxford’s unparalleled track record for producing world changing innovations.

Robert Boyle & Robert Hooke

Their respective contributions to science, technology, theology and mathematics laid the foundations for modern science and influenced generations of scholars to come, including the likes of Isaac Newton.

In 1655 Robert Boyle and assistant Robert Hooke began a series of experiments on the properties of air, leading to the writing of Boyle's Law.

Largely considered to be the first modern chemist, Boyle is not only a founder of modern chemistry but also a pioneer of modern experimental scientific method. A student of Boyle, Hooke was a man of many talents. He discovered the law of elasticity, which bears his name, coined the word 'cell' and rebuilt London alongside Christoper Wren following the Great Fire in 1666.

“There is no less invention in aptly applying a thought found in a book, than being the first author of the thought”

Robert Boyle


1941, Oxford was the first place in the world to synthesise a pure enough strain of Penicillin to treat humans, going on to save upwards of 80 million lives.

After Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming observed, almost accidentally, the antibiotic activity on a plate of mouldy food, he paved the way for scientists at Oxford to cultivate the substance into the life-saving drug it is today. Howard Florey and Ernst Chain's team at the Dunn School of Pathology assiduously purified, developed, tested and transformed it from mould to medicine. They later attained, along with Fleming, a Nobel Prize for their dedicated work.

At a time of huge conflict, the effect of this new drug on infected injuries was unprecedented. Following the war, mass production made penicillin-based antibiotics available over the counter in some parts of the world. Its peacetime uses meant that previously life-threatening diseases could now be conquered.

“One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.”

Alexander Fleming

Dorothy Hodgkin

Professor Dorothy Hodgkin's career contains many high-profile discoveries, including the discovery of the structure of insulin and penicillin.

In 1964, Dorothy was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, making her the third woman and only British female scientist to have ever received the prestigious prize. This followed a string of impressive findings, including the discovery of the structure of penicillin, steroid and vitamin B12. It wasn't until five years later that Dorothy finally uncovered the structure of the elusive insulin molecule following 35 years of work.

None of these discoveries would have been possible if it wasn't for her pioneering work in the field of X-ray crystallography, which became an indispensable tool for studying three-dimensional biomolecules.

“There's the moment when you know you can find out the answer and that's the period you are sleepless before you know what it is. When you've got it and know what it is, then you can rest easy.”

Lithium-Ion Battery

In 1976 professor John Goodenough created the Lithium-Ion Battery as a newly appointed Oxford Professor.

Underscoring 7.2 billion mobile phones around the world, the lithium ion battery is a lightweight but energy dense power source, with the ability to recharge hundreds of times. While it has revolutionised the use of mobile and handheld devices, there is still some way to go before a battery is created that will catapult the use of electric cars ahead of combustion.

Goodenough remains committed to this vision of leading the world into a cleaner and more sustainable future of renewable energy. And in 2017, at the age of 94, more than 30 years later, Goodenough invented a new battery, tripling energy storage and longevity when compared to his original.

“One of the things that’s important in society is to wean ourselves from our dependence on fossil fuels.”

John Goodenough

Catalysing off 1,000 years of asking the hardest questions, Oxford continues to be at the forefront of ground-breaking discovery.

Home to those at the frontier of research and experimentation, working to expand human understanding, and push the boundaries of invention, science and technology.

Here is a small selection of those stories.

Explore stories of innovation in Oxford today

From their Begbroke Science Park HQ, Nekton are pioneering technology that will propel mankind into one of the greatest unknowns: the deep ocean.

With 95% of the seabed still unexplored, there lies untapped potential that may hold the key to the planet's sustainable growth. With every mission, Nekton scientists are unearthing more; whether it is discovering new species, observing previously unseen migratory phenomena, or finding remnants of fossilised beaches from the ice age. These elusive depths not only allude to the former state of our planet, but to what the future holds too.

Technology developed by Oxford Nanopore is allowing scientists to analyse DNA in real-time, no matter where they are.

The revolutionary nanopore technology allows the user to conduct whole genome sequencing with handheld portable device 'MinION', at the touch of a button. From Antarctica to Brazil, and even aboard the international space station, it has broken records with biologist and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins successfully sequencing DNA in space, and has also played its part in characterising the genetic diversity of the Ebola virus in Guinea, and analysing the Zika virus in Brazil. As well as tracking viruses responsible for public health emergencies, the MinION has played its part in analysing ancient microbial mats that have survived for up to 10,000 years in the Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

Oxfordshire has over 1 billion dollars in high-tech energy infrastructure, including the Diamond Synchrotron, JET tokamak and new technology pioneered by First Light Fusion.

Over 7000 researchers use the world-leading facilities at Diamond Light Source to study everything from medicine to memory technologies, artifact conservation and nuclear materials. Accelerating electrons to produce 'beamlines' that are 10 billion times brighter than the sun, the Synchotron enables scientists to study samples at a capacity that is 10,000 times more powerful than a traditional microscope.

Investigating alternative technologies, Oxford University spin-out First Light Fusion are at the forefront of harnessing sustainable, low-cost energy from fusion reactions. First Light's investment in 'Machine 3' is projected to be 1000 times cheaper, per joule of energy, than existing laser technology.

The Joint European Torus is collectively used by over 40 European countries, with scientists working towards generating cleaner, safer and limitless energy for future generations.

Oxford is blending a rich history of problem solving along with world class computation, looking at AI from a multidimensional angle.

Home of the Effective Altruism movement, the Future of Humanity Institute, and Diffblue, Oxford is at the forefront of AI development. From creating systems for autonomous vehicles to looking at the ethical dilemmas of AI in real world situations, these three organisations intertwine with a shared ambition; using science, philosophy, mathematics and technology to address the complex challenges facing the human race.

From reducing crop damage to preventing the spread of disease, Oxitec's genetically modified insects can help communities worldwide to improve health and food production.

By creating insects that are 'self-limiting', Oxitec harnesses the natural mating instincts of the dangerous Aedes aegypti mosquito, causing its offspring to die before adulthood. The resulting population decrease has a direct impact on preventing the spread of diseases like Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and dengue. This approach has been hailed as the safe, sustainable alternative to existing solutions like insecticides or pesticides, which can be detrimental to the environment and other species.

In 1989, Oxford alumni and current Oxford professor Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, hoping for its use to engender a more egalitarian society and provide individuals with the means of expression.

Berners-Lee has become one of the most celebrated computer scientists of all time. Named as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time Magazine in 1999, made a fellow of the Royal Society in 2001, Knighted in 2004, added to the Order of Merit in 2007 and winning the 2016 Turing Award - generally considered to be the highest distinction in computer science. He featured in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, and has honorary degrees from many universities, including Harvard and Yale. He currently holds Professorial posts at the University of Oxford and MIT.

Berners-Lee continues to be one of the most prominent advocates around the world for a free and open internet, and co-founded the Open Data Institute in 2012.

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1000 years of great minds

Ivy Williams

First female barrister in the UK

Jason Gissing

Founder Ocado

Kulveer Taggar

CEO Auctomatic

Dr Penelope Curtis

Former director, Tate Britain

Frederick Soddy

Nobel Prize-winning chemist

Brian Greene

Theoretical physicist, co-founder World Science Festival

Mike Fischer

Co-founder RM plc

Roger Bannister

Neurologist and athlete

Michael Gould

Founder, Anaplan

Albert Einstein

Nobel Prize-winning physicist

One of the most famous scientists the world over, Albert Einstein revolutionised modern physics with his theory of relativity. He stayed at Oxford for three short periods of time, and was offered a five year residency at Christ Church. However he returned to the states to apply for citizenship and became a resident scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study.

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Kumi Naidoo

Executive Director of Greenpeace

Edwin Moses

Chairman & CEO, Ablynx

John McCall MacBain

Founder McCall MacBain Foundation and Pamoja Capital SA

Baruch S Blumberg

Nobel Prize-winning scientist

From 1989 until 1994 Blumberg was Master of Balliol College, Oxford. Following this he became an astrobiologist at NASA, investigating the possibility of life on other planets.

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James Meekings

Co-founder Funding Circle

Dame Cicely Saunders

1918 - 2005
Founder of the modern hospice movement

William Harvey

Physician, discovered circulation of blood

In 1645, Harvey was appointed Warden of Merton College, Oxford. Graduating as a Doctor of Medicine at the age of 24, Harvey went on to publish a complete study on the circulation of the blood after serving as the private physician to King James I.

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Ed Wray

Co-founder of Betfair

Jethro Tull

Agriculturalist and inventor

Guy Hands

Founder and chairman of Terra Firma Capital Partners

Gordon Sanghera

Oxford Nanopore

David Stevens

Co-founder Admiral, The Waterloo Foundation

George Robinson

Co-founder Solane Robinson

Brent Hoberman

Co-founder Lastminute.com

Isaiah Berlin


Robert Hooke

Natural philosopher

William Reeve

Co-founder Fletcher Research, LOVEFiLM.com and Secret Escapes.

Hiroki Takeuchi

Founder Go Cardless

Michael Moritz

Venture capitalist

After studying history at Oxford, Moritz became hugely successful with a string of internet successes. He has used much of his wealth to help others, including a sizable donation of £75m, to 10% oxford's poorest students (£11K scholarship).

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Peter Wrighton-Smith

Co-founder Oxford Immunotec

John Gurdon

Developmental biologist, Nobel Laureate

Sir John Gurdon is a Nobel Prize winning biologist. It was at the University of Oxford where Gurdon successfully cloned a frog. Some of his techniques developed for nuclear transfer are still used today. Gurdon received a Knighthood in 1995.

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Stuart Wheeler

Founder IG Index

Stephen Hawking

Theoretical physicist

Studying Natural Science at the University of Oxford where he received a first-class degree and later a PHD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, Hawking was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, often regarded as one of the most prestigious academic posts in the world. In 1988 he published the now famous 'Brief History of Time''. Hawking received many accolades in his lifetime including the Fundamental Physics Prize, a Copley Medal and a CBE.

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Sir Cyril Hinshelwood

Physical chemist, Nobel prize-winner

Howard Florey

Nobel Prize-winning pathologist

Baroness Mary Warnock

Philosopher and writer on morality, education, mind and existentialism

Hugh Osmond

Founder of Punch Taverns

Alain Locke

1885-1954, Philosopher and architect of the Harlem Renaissance

Demis Hassabis

Co-founder DeepMind

A former child chess prodigy, Hassabis is renowned in the field of artificial intelligence, founding DeepMind in 2010, which was sold to Google for £400m in 2014. The company made history when its robot beat a world champion Go Player.

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Martha Lane Fox

Founder of lastminute.com

Richard Dawkins

Evolutionary biologist

Dame Janet Vaughan

Haematologist and radiobiologist

After initiating the creation of national blood banks in London in 1938, Vaughan was sent to Belgium by the Medical Research Council to research starvation, and later to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of the war in Germany.

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Robin Geffen

Founder and CEO Neptune Investment Management

Sir Christopher Wren

Architect, astronomer, geometer

Martin Ryle

1918 - 1984
Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Nick Cross

Co-founder Immunocore

Nicola Horlick

Investment fund manager

Emily Wilding Davison


Tom Blomfield

CEO Monzo

Edwin Hubble

Pioneer in extragalactic astonomy

Margaret Turner-Warwick

1924-2017, First woman President of the Royal College of Physicians

Henry Moseley

Physicist, engineer

Constantin Coussios

Director Oxford Centre for Drug Delivery Devices

Oliver Smithies

1925 - 2017, Geneticist and physical biochemist, Nobel prize-winner

Samir Desai

Co-founder and CEO, Funding Circle

Ruthe Farmer

National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)

Reid Hoffman

Co-founder LinkedIn

Ken Loach


T.E. Lawrence of Arabia

Archaeologist, military officer

Heather Stevens

Co-founder Admiral, The Waterloo Foundation

John Ruskin

Author, artist and social reformer

Luke Johnson

Entrepreneur, Pizza Express

Dame Josephine Barnes

1912 - 1999, First female President of the British Medical Association

Michael Heseltine

Politician and businessman

Tim Berners Lee

Computer Scientist

Nick D'Aloisio

Inventor, Summly

In 2013 D'Aloisio sold his news summary app Summly to Yahoo for $30m, making him one of the youngest self-made millionaires. He is currently studying at Oxford and has published numerous papers, whilst working on his next venture for which he received funding for in 2015. Watch this space.

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J. Allie Morse

Founder, Jumia

Rev Chad Varah

Founder of the Samaritans

Sir Walter Raleigh

Explorer, writer, politician, courtier

Bryce Goodman

Co-founder BlueOak Resources

After completing his studies at Oxford, Goodman co-founded BlueOak Resources. Converting e-waste into sustainable metals for future technologies, BlueOak works to reduce the amount of toxic metals in landfills.

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Ivan Griffin

Co-founder BenevolentAI

Co-founding BenevolentAI in 2013, the company uses AI to crunch through scientific papers, medical databases, and chemical libraries, looking for potential drug molecules hidden in the data, which it then develops into medicines.

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Dorothy Hodgkin

1910 - 1994
Nobel Prize-winning chemist

The only British woman to have received the Nobel Prize in chemistry, Dorothy Hodgkin achieved the accolade for developing protein crystallography.

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Kevin Hartz

Co-founder and Chairman Eventbrite

Susan Rice

Former United States National Security Advisor

Husayn Kassai

Co-founder Onfido

David Fajgenbaum

Castleman Disease Collaborative Network

Saul Klein

Founder Seedcamp, LoveFilm

Mark Cummins

Founder Plink, Pointy

John E. Walker

Nobel Prize winning chemist

One of the co-recipients of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997, John E Walker is credited, along with Paul D. Boyer, for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

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Jessica Butcher

Founder, Blippar

Oxford grad and Blippar founder, one of Britain's best-funded technology scale-ups and the world's leading mobile visual-browser.

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