University of Leeds
#64 Overall Influence

University of Leeds

University in Leeds, United Kingdom

By James Barham, PhD

The city of Leeds lies at the northern edge of the English Midlands, the geographical region of the UK where the Industrial Revolution primarily took place. Leeds was especially important as a center of textile manufacturing, which led the way toward the explosive growth of British industry and empire during the Victorian era.

All of this helps explain why the University of Leeds traces its roots to the early nineteenth century, with the founding of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831. In 1874, the medical school was absorbed into the newly founded Yorkshire College of Science, which in turn was expanded into a full liberal-arts school and renamed Yorkshire College in 1884.

Only three years later, in 1887, Yorkshire College became incorporated into Victoria University, a short-lived, regional, public university system based in neighboring Manchester that included campuses in Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool.

However, rivalries between Manchester and Leeds proved to be too strong, and in 1904 the Leeds campus—the successor to Yorkshire College—went its own way, receiving its own separate royal charter as the University of Leeds.

Leeds can boast affiliation with three Nobel Prize laureates, namely:

  • W.H. Bragg, for the development of X-ray crystallography — physics
  • George Porter, for the development of flash photolysis — chemistry
  • Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka — literature

Other Leeds-connected scientists include:

  • Botanist and plant geneticist, David C. Baulcombe
  • Immunologist, Percival Hartley
  • Endocrinologist, James Francis Tait
  • Cancer researcher and developer of tamoxifen, V. Craig Jordan
  • Aviation pioneer, Robert Blackburn
  • Astronaut, Piers Sellers

Other distinguished Leeds-affiliated individuals include:

  • Poet, Geoffrey Hill
  • Medievalist, philologist, and famed author of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Journalist and children’s author, Arthur Ransome
  • Kenyan novelist, short-story writer, playwright, essayist, and memoirist, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o; the author and screenwriter, Jeremy Dyson
  • Rock musician, Mark Knopfler
  • Literary critic, G. Wilson Knight
  • Journalist and radio broadcaster, Andrew Kershaw
  • American radio host, Dennis Prager
  • Actor, Chris Pine
  • Art historian and philosopher, Herbert Read
  • Sinologist, Owen Lattimore
  • Marxist historian and author of The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson
  • Sociologist, Zygmunt Baumann
  • Eldest son of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII (after whom the Edwardian period is named)

What is University of Leeds known for?

#19 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#33 World Rank
#47 World Rank
#53 World Rank
#66 World Rank
#74 World Rank
Criminal Justice
#88 World Rank
#88 World Rank
#99 World Rank
Religious Studies
#112 World Rank
#113 World Rank
Computer Science
#118 World Rank
#121 World Rank
#121 World Rank
#127 World Rank
#145 World Rank
#148 World Rank
#165 World Rank
#175 World Rank
Political Science
#176 World Rank
#180 World Rank
#198 World Rank
#206 World Rank
Social Work
#373 World Rank

Influential People

Who are University of Leeds's Most influential alumni?

University of Leeds's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Earth Sciences, Literature, and Biology. University of Leeds’s most academically influential people include Stephen Jay Gould, Wole Soyinka, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould

American evolutionary biologist

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Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka

Nigerian writer

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Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Kenyan writer

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Herbert Edward Read
Herbert Edward Read

English anarchist, poet, and critic of literature and art

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Richard Hoggart

British sociologist

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Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman

English doctor and serial killer

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Mark Gatiss
Mark Gatiss

British actor, screenwriter and novelist

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Tony Harrison

British poet and playwright

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Sheena Cruickshank
Sheena Cruickshank


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Paul Dacre

English journalist

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Piers Sellers
Piers Sellers

British astronaut

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Roparz Hemon
Roparz Hemon

French writer

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