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125 years of Cardiff University and World events, from Krakatoa to the moon-landing and beyond.

Lord Aberdare, who played a central role in the founding of the university college in Cardiff and was its first president, wrote to Mr Henry Richard, a Member of Parliament in 1884:

Why can’t we live 100 years – or rather, return here in 100 years hence – and see the results of that work for which we and our friends have laboured?



Cardiff University Events

Historical/Cultural Events

  1880 - 1889
  1883 1883

Cardiff University is founded as University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire on October 24, 1883, prompting a public holiday. Crowds from the city and nearby mining communities joined the Town and Gown procession through the city, and the church bells rang all day.

John Viriamu Jones is appointed as first Principal, leading a staff of 13 and 151 students.

The volcano Krakatoa erupts in Indonesia, one of the largest and most powerful eruptions for centuries.

Lord Aberdare, the author of the report that gave Cardiff University life, is named the University’s first President.  Today, a statue marking his historic contribution to education in Cardiff stands in the city’s Alexandra Gardens which look towards the University he helped to establish. Students Club is founded for all male registered students. Subscription is 2s.6d (12½ p) per session.

  The first University hostel for women, Aberdare Hall is opened. It is the first in Wales and second only after University College London in Britain. It remains an all female hall to this day.  
  1890 - 1899
  1893 1896

At the first meeting of the Court of the University, a leading South Wales physician moved a resolution that there should be a medical school in Cardiff. His initial donation of £1,000 eventually led to the opening of the Departments of Anatomy and Physiology.

Became founding member of University of Wales.

The first modern Olympics is held in Athens.
1894 1897

School of Medicine is officially opened on the top floor of the College building, Newport Road, Cardiff by Sir Richard Quain, President of the General Medical Council (GMC).

Gugliemlo Marconi is awarded a patent for radio communication. The first radio transmission was from Flat Holm to Lavernock Point in South Wales.

The first degree is awarded by the University.

  1900 - 1909
  1904 1901

Millicent McKenzie responsible for the training of female teachers becomes the first female in Wales, and possibly the first in Britain, to be addressed as Professor.

Queen Victoria dies after a 63 year long reign, she is succeeded by Edward VII

1905 1905

The Prince of Wales, later His Royal Highness, King George V lays the Foundation Stone for Main Building. In the ceremony, the architect, William Douglas Caroe, formally handed the trowel to Prince George, who then officially laid the Foundation Stone in his role as Chancellor. It is the first of many similar ceremonies carried out by successive princes of Wales.

Cardiff is granted city status.

The Glamorgan Building is built, now home to the School of City and Regional Planning and the School of Social Sciences.

  1910 - 1919

The Cardiff Royal Infirmary (CRI) opened in 1883, is renamed The King Edward VII Hospital for a short time (until 1923, when it reverts back to CRI). During this formative period, CRI becomes firmly established as a teaching hospital.

1912 1912
King George V and Queen Mary visit the University.

The cruise liner, Titanic, sinks with the loss of 1,503 lives

1914 - 18 1914 - 18

111 past and present students from University College die in active service during World War One.

World War One

The Foundation stone is laid on the Physiology block on Newport Road, Cardiff, marking the first stage of the new Welsh National School of Medicine.  Funding for the new building was made available with a donation of £100,000 by Sir William Thomas, College Vice-President.


James William Tudor (later Sir Tudor) Thomas becomes the first person to receive the MB Bch Degree. He goes on to become a specialist in ophthalmic surgery, pioneering a surgery on the cornea which restores the sight of a patient who had been nearly blind for 27 years, attracting worldwide interest in 1934.

The Bute Building is completed, now home to the Welsh School of Architecture and the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.

  1920 - 1929

The King Edward VII Hospital receives the new Medical School, to be known as the Welsh National School of Medicine (WNSM).


A sum of £14,000 is awarded by the Rockefeller Foundation, a foundation designed to "promote the well-being" of humanity by addressing the root causes of serious problems, to purchase Rockwood Hospital and grounds in Llandaff, Cardiff for Medical School use. The funds are used to build research laboratories for the Department of Medicine.

1926 1926

Cardiff Scientific Society established by technical staff in Zoology department; the Society continues to flourish today.

The general strike in the UK.

  The BBC is created, with a mission to inform, educate and entertain.
  1930 - 1939
  1930 1930

Students perform the College Yell to celebrate the 1930 visit of the Prince of Wales to open the new Chemistry and Physics laboratories in Main Building.

The first football world cup competition is held in Uruguay
1933 1936

Lord and Lady Bute, throw open their grounds at Cardiff Castle for a garden party to celebrate the University’s Golden Jubilee. An Honorary Degree Ceremony follows before an audience of 2,500, and an evening reception.

George V dies and is succeeded by Edward VIII who abdicates and is succeeded by George VI.

1939 - 45 1939 - 45

During World War Two University College hosts ‘refugee’ staff and students from University of London and various Government departments. The University manages to stay open for the entire duration of the war except three days in 1941 when bombing is at its height.

World War Two
  1940 - 1949
  1947 1948

150 Clinical students enrol with the Medical School, 26 enrol as pharmaceutical students and 25 students pursue postgraduate courses in public health and tuberculosis. In addition, nearly 100 students enrol on courses for health visitors, midwives and sanitary scientists.

The National Health Service (NHS) is established.

Professor Jethro Gough takes up appointment of Chair of Pathology, Welsh National School of Medicine. He goes on to make important contributions to the understanding of lung disease and gain an international reputation in pulmonary pathology, particularly for his work on coal workers pneumoconiosis. Along with a senior member of the technical staff at WNSM’s Institute of Pathology, he develops the Gough Wentworth large lung section technique which becomes used world-wide in the study of lungs and other organs.

  1950 - 1959
  1950 1952

Agreement is reached to develop a 53-acre medical and dental teaching centre at Heath Park, Cardiff, one mile north of the University’s Main Building.  Today it is the largest University Hospital in the UK and is the teaching hospital of Cardiff University’s school’s of Medicine and Dentistry.

Queen Elizabeth II succeeds her father to the throne.
1955 1955

University Hall, Penylan, opens with 58 male student residences. Today the University Hall complex provides accommodation for 637 students.

Cardiff becomes the capital of Wales

Publication of Professor William Mushin’s ‘Automatic ventilation of the lungs’, which is widely accepted as a classic work on the subject.

  1960 - 1969

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visits the School of Engineering and opens the Mining Building.


Completion of the Redwood Building, home to the Welsh School of Pharmacy


Foundations are laid and building starts at the Heath Park site for the University Hospital of Wales.


The Dental School and Hospital is officially opened by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

1967 1967

Welsh College of Advanced Technology becomes University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) and is granted Royal Charter.

The first phase of the Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research is opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret on the Heath Park site, Cardiff.

Britain’s first colour television programme is broadcast on BBC 2.


Sir Aubrey Trotman-Dickenson is appointed Principal of UWIST, later becoming Principal of Cardiff University following the merger with UWIST.

1969 1969

Patrick David Mounsey is appointed Provost of Welsh National School of Medicine.

American astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon.

  1970 - 1979
  1971 1971

Her Majesty The Queen formally opens the £20m Medical Teaching Centre incorporating the 800-bed University Hospital of Wales and the WNSM.

Decimalisation is introduced

School of Medicine’s groundbreaking Professor Archie Cochrane, publishes "Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on the Health Service" — the concept of evidence-based medicine is born. Considered a seminal text, it continues to have a profound influence on health services research and practice worldwide.


Students' Union building opens.


Sir Herbert Duthie is appointed Provost of Welsh National School of Medicine.

  1980 - 1989
  1985 1982

Professor Patrick Forrest chairs a Working Group to investigate the feasibility of breast cancer screening. The Group proposes screening, using mammography, should be offered to all women between 50 and 64 every 3 years as part of the NHS. The screening programme manifests itself today as Breast Test Wales.

The Falklands conflict between Britain and Argentina.
1987 1989

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales formally opens Cardiff Business School in the Aberconway Building.

The fall of the Berlin wall

Royal Charter is granted to the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) and University College Cardiff (UCC) to merge. The institutions become ‘University of Wales College of Cardiff’.

The Common Cold Centre, School of Biosciences is established.  It is the only one of its kind in the world dedicated to research and clinical trials on the symptomatic relief of the common cold, influenza and hay fever.

  1990 - 1999

The student newspaper, gair rhydd is Newspaper of the Year in the Guardian student newspaper awards. It is the first unanimous decision in the 12-year history of the award.

The School of Electrical, Electronic and Systems Engineering wins a gold medal at the First International Robotics Olympics for the design and build of the world’s fastest two-legged robot. The machine’s top speed is less than one mph and takes half a minute to cover a three meter course.

The Machine that Changed the World is published by Professor Daniel Jones of Cardiff Business School. It is declared Business Book of the Year by the Financial Times and is the most comprehensive survey of the motor industry ever undertaken.

With support from Department of Health, a team from the Department of Optometry develop tests for measuring vision in children with visual and other handicaps. Many years later it is to become a specialist unit within the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences.

1991 1992

The Legal Practice course for intending solicitors is introduced, placing Cardiff Law School at the forefront of legal education. In the same year, the School establishes a new Centre for Professional Legal Studies.

A major breakthrough is made with the isolation and characterisation of the myotonic dystrophy gene by researchers at the Institute of Medical Genetics.

The Channel Tunnel is built linking London and Paris by rail.


Sir Brian Smith is appointed Vice-Chancellor.

Her Majesty The Queen officially opens the engineering complex and consents to it being named the Queen’s Buildings.

  1994 1994

Professor Ian Cameron is appointed Vice-Chancellor of University of Wales College of Medicine.

Apartheid ends in South Africa.

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales receives a rapturous welcome from students as he officially opens the £17M Talybont residences complex, accommodating 1250 students.


The high quality of Cardiff’s research sees strong outcomes in the Research Assessment Exercise.

The Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC) is founded, under the directorship of Professor Duc Pham OBE to conduct world-leading research and development in all major areas of Advanced Manufacturing and uses the output to promote the introduction of new manufacturing technology and practice to industry. The Centre goes on to win numerous awards including the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's First Prize for success in building lasting research partnerships with industry and the Queen's Anniversary Prize for creating an exceptional programme of support for firms using our research expertise and state-of-the-art facilities.

  1997 1997

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales returns to tour the recently acquired Glamorgan Building, formerly Mid Glamorgan County Hall. He learns how it will provide first class premises for teaching and research. The building is now home to the School of Social Sciences.

Scotland and Wales vote in favour of devolution.

The College of Medicine is awarded Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the chemiluminescent labelling technology which is now in use in laboratories all around the world.


Cardiff is the only university in Wales to become a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities working with other leading universities across the UK to help develop the higher education sector.

The new ‘super-school’ of Biosciences is opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

  2000 - 2010

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh have a ‘splendid and memorable’ day-long visit to the University.


2001 2001

Dr David Grant is appointed Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University.

Professor Stephen Tomlinson is appointed Vice-Chancellor, University of Wales College of Medicine.

Cardiff University is recognised as one of Britain’s leading research universities in the Research Assessment Exercise in which the majority of research areas further strengthen their gradings.

The Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) is established by the Economic and Social Research Council and is opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales the following year.

11th September terrorist attacks on America rock the world.

Labour wins the general election, with Tony Blair returned as prime minister.

2002 2002

The Wales Gene Park is established to support genetics researchers in Wales and elsewhere.

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Golden Jubilee.

First Minister, Rhodri Morgan opens the Wellcome Building for Biomedical Research in Wales at the University Hospital Site.

The University is the venue for the Investiture ceremony for the Queen's New Year's honours, presided over by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

2004 2004

University of Wales College of Medicine and Cardiff University merge thus re-establishing the Medical School within its parent body after 70 years.

Dr David Grant is appointed Vice-Chancellor of the newly merged Cardiff University.

The tsunami in the Indian Ocean. 
2005 2005

The title 'Cardiff University' and a new Supplemental Charter is formally granted to the University by the Privy Council on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, meaning that Cardiff officially becomes a university in its own right and, as a consequence, becomes independent of the University of Wales.

Cardiff University admits the first students to courses leading to Cardiff University degrees. It confirms the position regarding eligibility for Cardiff University awards.

Opening of the University’s Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, the first in the UK to focus on Islam and Muslims in Britain. It is opened by Yusuf Islam (formerly the musician, Cat Stevens). The Centre receives the Sankore University award for Excellence in Education at the Muslim News Awards.

A new partnership between scientists at Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences and the Department of Opthalmology, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Japan advances the global fight against eye disease. The partnership offers a better understanding of the genetics controlling endemic eye diseases.

The new Unum Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research in the School of Psychology is opened. The centre is the first in UK to develop specific lines of research in psychosocial factors related to disability as well as conducting research for the application of research based vocational rehabilitation interventions.

The University enhances the role of North Wales in training student doctors by launching the North Wales Clinical School - a £12.5 million Welsh Assembly Government-backed initiative. The North Wales Clinical School becomes a major component of the University’s School of Medicine and is a collaboration between three North Wales NHS trusts, University of Wales, Bangor, North East Wales Institute and primary care delivery in North Wales.

Kyoto Protocol on measure to control climate change comes into force.

Nobel Laureate Professor Dr Robert Huber joins the University on a part time basis to spearhead the development of Structural Biology, part of a University-wide initiative in Chemical Biology.

Actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry turns to School of Medicine to understand years of torment with bipolar disorder. His BBC Documentary - The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive wins a BAFTA award.

Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre opens enabling new insights into the workings of the human brain. One of the first facilities in the UK to combine Structural and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI/fMRI) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG), it is devoted solely to research.

Renowned Welsh tenor, Dennis O’Neill CBE joins forces with the University to create the Cardiff International Academy of Voice, offering individual voice coaching to some of the most exciting talent in world opera.

Cardiff University and Morriston Hospital, Swansea win the right to host the Healing Foundation UK Centre for Burns Research —  a multi-million pound collaboration which holds the prospect of major benefits to the 14,000 people a year in Britain who suffer serious burns.

2007 2007

Cardiff breaks into the ranks of the world's top 100 universities for the first time in the Times Higher Educational World University Rankings.

Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS wins the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his series of groundbreaking discoveries concerning embryonic stem cells and DNA recombination in mammals. Sir Martin Evans was the first scientist to isolate embryonic stem cells and becomes the second Nobel Laureate at Cardiff University. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, leads the congratulations.

The University’s Institute of Medical Genetics wins the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for excellence in higher education.

Breast surgeon Professor Robert Mansel, School of Medicine pioneers a new surgical technique in breast cancer which is named National Health Service Innovation of the Year.

The United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger commissions a team from Cardiff School of City and Regional Planning to lead a new home-grown school feeding programme for the World Food Programme.

The University commences the largest-ever genetic study ever into the genetics underlying late-onset Alzheimer's disease.  Professor Julie Williams of the School of Medicine leads a team of UK experts studying DNA samples taken from 14,000 people worldwide in search of the genes which not only predispose people to Alzheimer’s, but can protect them from developing the disease too.

A new £21M building for the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences is completed. It represents the single largest investment in eye care anywhere in the UK and provides one of the most advanced University centres for optometry and vision science.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales officially launches the University’s Police Science Institute, a unique collaboration between South Wales Police, Cardiff University and the University of Glamorgan.

Wales’ First Minister, Rhodri Morgan opens the School of Engineering’s new Gas Turbine Research Centre which tests for cleaner and more efficient ways of generating power.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd from the Dental School receives the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for his pioneering research into late-night city violence.

The University becomes a fair-trade institution.

The Doomsday Clock is set to five minutes to midnight.

Facebook phenomenon takes hold.



125th Anniversary of Cardiff University.

Events to celebrate the University’s 125th anniversary will be held throughout 2008 visit the 125 events pages for further details.