Stories of some of these renowned people are featured in our special anniversary book, entitled The People’s University: 150 years of the University of London and its External students.Our global community of former students and alumni include many exceptional people who have made their mark on the world. In addition to five Nobel Prize Winners – Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, Ronald Coase, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott and, most famous of all, Nelson Mandela – they include academics (Asa Briggs, Kwasi Wiredu, Sir Geoffrey Elton); engineers (Sir Barnes Wallis); politicians (Dr Luisa Diogo, Gisela Stuart MP); and writers (H.G. Wells, Chinua Achebe, Malcolm Bradbury). Today, our worldwide reputation continues to ensure our graduates are to be found in leading positions around the world.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, and the foremost West Indian poet and dramatist writing today, Walcott was born in St Lucia. An extensive bibliography includes the epic-length poem Omeros (1990) – a retelling of the Homeric legend in a Caribbean context – and a collection of literary criticism, What the Twilight Says (1998). A Selected Poems was published in 2007.
Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins
Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1929 for the discovery of what are now known as vitamins, Hopkins graduated in 1890 as a ‘non-collegiate’ student of the University of London. Hopkins was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1905 and was a member of the first Medical Research Committee.
For many of his 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela studied Law as a University of London External student. He passed the London Intermediate exams in 1963, but the conditions imposed by the South African authorities prevented him from completing his degree in the later 1960s and 70s. The former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner has received more than 100 awards, including many honorary degrees.
Professor Ronald Coase
Ronald Coase took the London Intermediate exam as an External student in 1929, before taking a degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science. A year spent in the USA studying the structure of American industries provided the basis for ‘The Nature of the Firm’ (1937). Another article, ‘The Problem of Social Cost’ (1961), continues to be among the most widely cited in economic literature. Both articles were cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences as justification for awarding Coase the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1991.
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, Wole Soyinka graduated from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, while it was in ‘special relation’ with the University of London. One of Africa’s greatest contemporary writers, his oeuvre includes Death and the King’s Horseman (1975) – widely considered his finest play – essay collections, novels and memoirs. Covering his life from young manhood to the present, Soyinka's latest volume of autobiography is You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006).
A BSc Zoology graduate, the British writer H.G. Wells is sometimes referred to as ‘The Father of Science Fiction’. His work includes The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898). A lifelong socialist and a tireless champion of women’s rights, in 1936 Wells received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University, as part of its hundredth anniversary celebrations. Later, in 1943, Wells qualified for a DSc by External study.
Born in Velden, Bavaria, Gisela Stuart moved to Britain in 1974. MP for Birmingham Edgbaston since 1997, and a junior health minister until 2001, Gisela sat on the European Convention’s 13- strong steering group. She gained her LLB by External study in 1993. Without it, she claims, she would never have become an MP. She recalls the graduation ceremony at London’s Barbican Centre as being ‘one of the most moving and magnificent experiences of my life’.
Sir Joseph Hotung
Philanthropist, art collector and private investor, Sir Joseph Hotung gained his LLB by External study in 1970. Born in Shanghai, Sir Joseph is from the third generation of a Hong Kong family which has generously supported educational causes. His distinguished career in business includes directorships of HSBC Bank and other international companies.The first Chairman of the Arts Development Council in Hong Kong, he was awarded an honorary DSc (Econ) by the University of London in 2003.
Dr Luisa Diogo
A Financial Economics graduate, Luisa Diogo became the first woman to be appointed Prime Minister of Mozambique. An anti-poverty and health advocate, she has been vocal in taking rich nations to task for not following up on aid, trade and debt relief promises to Africa. “It is no country's destiny to be poor”, she has said. In Forbes’ 2007 list of ‘100 Most Powerful Women In The World’ she ranks 89th.