University of Birmingham
#53 Overall Influence

University of Birmingham

University in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

By James Barham, PhD

The University of Birmingham has a rather involved history. The oldest entity to which the modern university can trace its roots is the Birmingham School of Medicine and Surgery, founded in 1825. This medical-training college was officially recognized by the crown in 1836, becoming the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery, which developed into Queen’s College, Birmingham, in 1843.

A separate institution of higher learning, Mason Science College, was founded in Birmingham in 1875, upgrading to Mason University College in 1898.

Two years later, in 1900, the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery and Mason University College merged to become the new University of Birmingham, operating under a royal charter.

Birmingham was one of the first of the so-called “red-brick” universities, operating under the auspices of the crown as public institutions in provincial English cities. The red bricks were not only closer to home for many English people, they were also far less exclusive in their admission criteria and general ambience, as well as representing a less expensive higher education option, than Oxford or Cambridge.

Birmingham has always been strong in the natural sciences. Some 11 Nobel Prize recipients have called the university home, including:

  • John M. Kosterlitz, John Schrieffer & David Thouless — physics
  • Norman Haworth & Fraser Stoddart — chemistry
  • Maurice Wilkins, Peter Medawar, John Vane & Paul Nurse — physiology or medicine

Other Birmingham-connected notables include:

  • Physicists Rudolf Peierls, Otto Frisch, Mark Oliphant & John S. Bell
  • Biologist and organ transplantation pioneer, Rupert Billingham
  • Ethologist and popular science writer, Desmond Morris
  • Philosopher, Michael Dummett
  • Philosopher and theologian, William Lane Craig
  • Novelist and screenwriter, James Clavell
  • Actors Madeleine Carroll, George Takei & Isaac Hempstead Wright
  • German billionaire heiress, Susanne Klatten
  • Chemical engineer and industrialist, Jim Ratcliffe
  • Economist and current member of the Greek Parliament, Yanis Varoufakis
  • Former British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain

What is University of Birmingham known for?

#23 World Rank
Religious Studies
#34 World Rank
#40 World Rank
#44 World Rank
#44 World Rank
Social Work
#45 World Rank
#46 World Rank
Computer Science
#47 World Rank
#59 World Rank
Political Science
#66 World Rank
#70 World Rank
#73 World Rank
#75 World Rank
#81 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#86 World Rank
#89 World Rank
#100 World Rank
#109 World Rank
#110 World Rank
#114 World Rank
#190 World Rank
#191 World Rank
#202 World Rank
Criminal Justice
#218 World Rank

Influential People

Who are University of Birmingham's Most influential alumni?

University of Birmingham's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Religious Studies, Medical, and Engineering. University of Birmingham’s most academically influential people include Maurice Wilkins, Paul Nurse, and David Lodge.

Maurice Wilkins
Maurice Wilkins

New Zealand-born English physicist and biologist

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Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse

Nobel prize winning British biochemist

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David Lodge


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Desmond Morris
Desmond Morris

English zoologist, ethologist and surrealist painter

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William Lane Craig
William Lane Craig

American Christian apologist and evangelist

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Harry Boot

English physicist

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Peter Brock
Peter Brock

Australian racing driver

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John Stewart Bell
John Stewart Bell

Northern Irish physicist

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Alfred J. Lotka
Alfred J. Lotka

American mathematician

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Paul Gilroy
Paul Gilroy

British sociologist

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Ginnifer Goodwin
Ginnifer Goodwin

American actress

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Francis William Aston
Francis William Aston

British chemist

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