John Cornforth

1939, Chemistry


Professor Sir John Warcup Cornforth was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975 for his research into the ‘stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions’. John was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1917. After graduating from the University of Sydney in 1938, he moved to Oxford to study Chemistry at St Catherine’s.

During the Second World War, he was part of the Oxford laboratory which pioneered penicillin, helping to author The Chemistry of Penicillin – the official record of the international research effort which pioneered the drug. He was knighted in 1977, and received the prestigious Copley Medal from the Royal Society of London in 1982. He remained active in research as a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Sussex until he was almost 90 years old.

John Cornforth was the College’s first alumnus to be awarded a Nobel Prize and he was an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine’s.

Photo: Sir John Cornforth receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry © AP.

Joshua Silver

1964, Physics

Director of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World

Professor Joshua Silver is currently the Director of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World, based at St Catherine’s College. The Centre is devoted to research to improve methods of vision correction in the developing world.

Professor Silver has created several generations of self-adjustable eyeglasses, including the world’s first fluid-filled universal eyeglasses named ‘Adspecs'. This, significantly, has enabled the low-cost manufacture of corrective lenses and there are now over 50,000 pairs of ‘Adspecs’ in use in around 20 countries worldwide.

The Centre for Vision in the Developing World's Child ViSion™ glasses, designed to help 12-18 year olds, were recently awarded an Icon Award in the Socially Responsible Design category at Icon Magazine's 2013 annual awards ceremony. They are about to go into clinical trials in several countries.

You can watch Professor Silver's lecture at the Bodleian Library, entitled How to make your own eyeglasses for about one pound: an Oxford technology created to benefit the developing World, here. This lecture was part of the exhibition Great Medical Discoveries: 800 Years of Oxford Innovation.

Notable Alumni

Throughout its history, St Catherine's has produced many gifted men and women who have achieved great success in their chosen walk of life. This page lists just a selection of our Notable Alumni. If you have a suggestion for inclusion, please email us.

Chris Anderson (1975, PPE)
Entrepreneur, owner of TED

Jason Bell (1987, PPE)
Fashion photographer

Benazir Bhutto (1976, Foreign Service Programme)
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

Michael Billington OBE (1958, English)
Author and arts critic

John Cornforth (1939, Chemistry)
Nobel Prize winning chemist

Vivienne Cox CBE (1977, Chemistry)
Businesswoman, Executive vice President, Alternative Energy for BP

Philip de Glanville (1990, Politics and Sociology)
Former England rugby captain

Alice Eve (2001, English Language and Literature)

Emilia Fox (1993, English)

Peter Galbraith (1973, PPE)
Diplomat and author

MG Harris (1984, Biochemistry)
Children's author

Joseph Heller (1949, English)
Novelist and playwright

David Hemery CBE (1969, Education)
Olympic and Commonwealth athlete

Peter Mandelson  (1973, PPE)
Former MP and European Commissioner

Mark Miodownik (1988, Metallurgy)
Materials scientist and engineer

Matthew Pinsent CBE (1989, Geography)
Olympic rower and broadcaster

Jane Platt CBE (1975, Modern Languages)
Businesswoman, Chief Executive of NS&I

Alex Polizzi (1990, English)
Hotelier and broadcaster

Chloe Potter (2000, Modern History)
Journalist, producer and broadcaster

Harriet Sergeant (1974, English)
Journalist and author

Mark Simpson (2008, Music)
Composer and clarinettist

Joshua Silver (1964, Physics)
Physicist and academic

Andy Triggs Hodge OBE (2004, Geography)
Olympic rower

Sir John Walker (1960, Chemistry)
Nobel Prize winning chemist

Maxine Williams (1992, Law)
Global Director of Diversity at Facebook

Eric Williams (1932, Modern History)
Former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago

Simon Winchester OBE (1963, Geology)
Author and journalist

Wilfred Wong (1976)
Entrepreneur and philanthropist

Catz features in new TV Show ‘Chokepoint’

Chokepoint is an independently produced British spy drama, written and directed by SG Smith. Starring Tim Dutton of Death in Paradise, the fast-paced thriller was partly filmed at Catz and premieres online from March 1 2014 here.

Shot entirely on location, the show features Catz SCR and Bernard Sunley Building, with Arne Jacobsen’s iconic architecture clearly visible in the background.

Stephen Fry Lecture Podcast

Stephen Fry delivered his Inaugural Lecture as the Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre on Thursday 20 February at St Catherine's College.


Stephen’s Inaugural Lecture, entitled 'Put on Your Red Shoes: Performance and Destiny' is now available as a Podcast for all to enjoy. (Contains strong language.)

Professor Alan Katritzky 1928 - 2014

The College is deeply saddened to announce that alumnus and Honorary Fellow Professor Alan Roy Katritzky (1952, Chemistry) passed away on 10 February 2014 at the age of 85.

Alan was born in London in 1928 and came to St Catherine’s in 1948 to study Chemistry. He graduated with a BA in 1952 and went on to study for a DPhil. From 1954 to 1958 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at Oxford at both Pembroke and Magdalen Colleges.

Actor Michael Sheen Visits Catz

We were delighted to welcome actor Michal Sheen to Catz on Friday 14 February 2014. He spoke to current students about life as an actor, and fielded questions about his own acting career.

Michael is a Welsh stage and screen actor, perhaps best-known for playing real-life figures such as David Frost in Frost/Nixon (2008) and Tony Blair in The Deal (2003), The Queen (2006), The Special Relationship (2010). He has had an incredibly varied career, and has been nominated for multiple awards including an Olivier, BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe.

Maria Guadalupe Harris

1984, Biochemistry


Maria Guadalupe Enriquez Harris was born in Mexico City and grew up in Manchester, England. She studied Biochemistry at St Catherine’s College and St Cross College, and spent several years working in research laboratories before setting up her own internet company.

A skiing accident in 2004 forced her to spend many weeks recuperating, during which time she began the first book in her children’s adventure series, The Joshua Files: Invisible City. The five-book series went on to be translated into seventeen languages.

In 2013 she joined forces with Jamie, son of TV producer Gerry Anderson to launch Gerry's posthumous project, GEMINI FORCE ONE. The series of books will be published by Gollancz and Orion Children's Books from August 2014.


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