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Strong founding principles

John Viriamu Jones

John Viriamu Jones, the University’s first Principal.

The news that Cardiff had been selected as home for a new university college in Wales was greeted like a modern-day city winning the Olympics.

The new college was founded on the basis that higher education should be open to all, regardless of age, gender or background – principles which have stood the University in good stead for 125 years.

Many of these first principles were laid down by the University’s first Principal, Professor John Viriamu Jones. A brilliant physicist, he was appointed to the post at the age of just 27.

One of Viriamu Jones’ earliest declarations was that every woman should have the right to a full education – a strikingly radical view in the late 19th century. But he kept his word, and in 1896 the first-ever University of Wales degree was awarded to a female Cardiff student, Maria Dawson.

He introduced a tradition of recruiting the very best teaching and research talent from around the world. In July 1898, he appointed an Indian scientist, SC Mahalanobis, to the physiology department. Professor Mahalanobis subsequently returned to Calcutta to establish India’s first science college. Today, Cardiff continues to attract the world’s leading academic talent, including Professor Dr Robert Huber from Germany, a Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry.

John Viriamu Jones also found time to combine his administrative and teaching duties with research into electrical resistance. Today, the world-leading research of Cardiff University academics has practical benefits around the world.

An outstanding example has been a surgical service developed by Professor Robert Mansel at the School of Medicine, which offers thousands of breast cancer patients the chance to avoid unnecessary armpit surgery. This was named Best National Health Innovation for 2007.

Research also remains hard-wired into the education of Cardiff University students. Many lecturers are world-leaders in their field and incorporate their ground-breaking research into lessons. A recent independent review revealed students value highly this aspect of their time at Cardiff.