Remarkable Alumni

Past students have achieved success in all walks of life – as prime ministers, Nobel Prize winners, ambassadors, judges, lawyers, philosophers, heads of multi-national corporations, vice-chancellors, researchers, film-makers, writers, musicians, teachers, church leaders, academics, in business and in the Army. Many work internationally – in NGOs, development agencies and the United Nations. The Workers’ Educational Association, the National Trust, Amnesty International, Ashoka (the global association of social entrepreneurs), and Avaaz (the online advocacy group) were all established by Balliol people.

Current alumni

Well-known names amongst current Balliol alumni include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins; broadcasters Peter Snow, Dan Snow and Robert Peston; Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary; Lord Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University; writers Ved Mehta, Amit Chaudhuri and Rana Dasgupta; Nobel Prize winner Anthony Leggett (2003, jointly for Physics); distinguished scientists Ewan Birney, Hagan Bayley and Peter Donnelly; Atul Gawande, surgeon, writer and public health researcher; Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England; filmmaker Michael Winterbottom; diplomats Sir John Holmes and Sir Nigel Sheinwald.

Among the Balliol women who have achieved success since women undergraduates began to be admitted in 1979 are MPs Yvette Cooper and Charlotte Leslie; former senior police officer Cressida Dick; investment fund manager Nicola Horlick; market strategist and former broadcast journalist Stephanie Flanders; playwright Charlotte Jones; chemist Clare Grey; NancyAnn deParle, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy in Obama administration; Professor of Philosophy Cheryl Misak; academic lawyer and Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge, Jane Stapleton; Professor of Global Economic Governance Ngaire Woods; Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO. See also this longer list of Balliol women.

Some Balliol people from the past

(including Fellows (F) and Masters (M))

  • John Wycliffe (M), credited with first translating the Bible into English, d. 1384
  • John Evelyn, 17th-century writer, gardener and diarist, and a founding member of the Royal Society
  • James Bradley, Astronomer Royal from 1742
  • Adam Smith, 18th-century political economist 
  • Prime Ministers: Herbert Asquith (Liberal), Harold Macmillan (Conservative), Edward Heath (Conservative)
  • Lords Chief Justice: Popham (d. 1607) and Coleridge (d. 1894); Lord Bingham, Master of the Rolls and Senior Law Lord (d. 2010)
  • Social reformers and idealists: Arnold Toynbee (d. 1883), T.H. Green (d. 1949), G.D.H. Cole (d. 1959), R.H. Tawney (d. 1962) and William Beveridge
  • Viceroys of India: Lords Elgin (d. 1917), Curzon (d. 1925) and Lansdowne (d. 1927)
  • Archbishops of Canterbury: Bradwardine (d. 1349), Morton (d.1500), Abbot (d. 1633), Tait (d. 1882), Frederick Temple (d. 1902), William Temple (d. 1944) and Lang (d. 1945)
  • 19th-century poets: Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Southey, Robert Browning (F), Arthur Hugh Clough, Francis Palgrave
  • First World War poets: Julian Grenfell, P.H. Shaw-Stewart
  • Other literary figures: Nevil Shute, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene, Robertson Davies, Anthony Powell, Hilaire Belloc, L.P. Hartley, A.C. Bradley
  • Academic reformers: many, including in the 19th-century Richard Jenkyns (M) and Benjamin Jowett (M)
  • Nobel Prize winners: Sir Cyril Hinshelwood (1937 jointly for Chemistry), Linus Pauling (F) (1954 for Chemistry), George Wells Beadle (F) (1958 for Medicine), Sir John Hicks (1972 for Economics); Robert Solow (F) (1998 for Economics), Gunnar Myrdal (F) (1974 for Economics), Baruch Blumberg (M) (1976 for Medicine), Peter Diamond (F) (2010 for Economic Sciences), Oliver Smithies (2007, jointly for Medicine)
  • Historians: V.H. Galbraith, Christopher Hill (M), Keith Thomas, John Keegan
  • Politicians: Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (Foreign Secretary 1905–1916), Roy Jenkins (also Chancellor of Oxford University), Lakshman Kadirgamar (Sri Lankan Foreign Minister), Adam von Trott (executed for his part in the 1944 plot to kill Hitler), Denis Healey (Chancellor of the Exchequer 1974-1979)
  • Ambassadors and diplomats: R.B.D. Morier (d.1893), E.J. Monson (d. 1909), A. Spring-Rice (d. 1934), and W.G. Tyrrell (d. 1947); Henry Crofton Lowther (d. 1939), Harold Nicolson (d.1968), Sir Iain Sutherland (d.1986), Ted Pocock (d.2013); William Peters, founder of Make Poverty History (d. 2014), Munir Butt (d. 2015)
  • Philosopher: Derek Parfit
  • Journalists: Christopher Hitchens, William Rees-Mogg
  • Botanists: Thomas Knight, Julian Huxley
  • Musical people: composers John Farmer, George Malcolm and F.S. Kelly, songwriter Sydney Carter, conductor Vernon Handley
  • Other: Laurence Whistler, glass engraver, H.D. Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust; Ludwig Guttmann, founder of the Paralympic Games

Other Balliol people

There are lists of notable Balliol people, past and present, on Wikipedia: by category here, and as a longer list of alumni here. See also the College news page, which features many stories about interesting activities by College Members, and Balliol Archives and Manuscripts.

Here is a list of Balliol people who have competed in the Olympic Games.