Established in 1852 and with a modern reputation as one of Britain’s best universities, Edinburgh has seen more than its fair share of alumni go on to great things. From scientists and authors to trailblazing doctors and real-life James Bonds, we’ve probably produced leaders in every field there is.
Elementary, my dear Arthur
Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who gave us Sherlock Holmes - and, indirectly, the man who gave us Benedict Cumberbatch in his first leading TV role - studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh in the 1880s, and was inspired to create his infamous detective by his tutor, Joseph Bell, who was on the cutting edge of forensic medicine.
The evolution of an idea that changed the world
Charles Darwin may have come up with his groundbreaking theory of evolution after his extensive travels around the world, but it was his education at Edinburgh that paved the way. It was where he wrote his first scientific paper and studied the marine coastline near the city, but it wasn’t what the young Darwin had in mind and he left after two years of study.
The name’s Rimmington. Stella Rimmington.
Forget 007, the most important number in the life of Britain’s most famous real life spy is 1958 - the year Stella Rimmington graduated from the University of Edinburgh. Joining MI5 in 1969, she would go on to run the entire organisation as both the first female Director General and the first one whose identity would be made public, inspiring Judi Dench’s M in the Bond films. She’s now a successful novelist famous for her spy thrillers and once compared British literary critics to the KGB - presumably, she’s the expert on that.
There’s one thing that all the doctors trained at Edinburgh’s Medical School had in common until the 1860s - they were all men. Then Sophia Jex-Blake led six of her friends into a fight for equal education when they demanded to matriculate alongside the men. Although the women frequently came top of the class, they weren’t allowed to graduate with a full degree and had to qualify abroad. They got their way eventually, though - Edinburgh admitted female students from 1892 thanks to decades of campaigning.