20 Famous people Leicestershire has given the world

Posted by crm28 at Jul 20, 2017 05:50 PM |
Leicester Mercury’s top twenty Leicesterites includes many famous people with University of Leicester connections.

Our friends over at The Leicester Mercury have created a shortlist of 20 individuals from Leicestershire who have made significant contributions to the world we live in today. 40% of those highlighted by the Mercury have University of Leicester connections.

The Mercury’s top twenty famous Leicesterites includes:


Sir Alec Jeffreys
Sir Alec Jeffreys arrived at Leicester’s Department of Genetics in 1977. In our very own Adrian Building, Sir Alec invented DNA fingerprinting. DNA Fingerprinting is one of the most significant discoveries of the 21st Century and has revolutionised crime investigation. You can read more about Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and the history of DNA fingerprinting on the Department of Genetics’ website. →

Lord Richard and Sir David Attenborough
Richard and David Attenborough moved to College House, at the heart of our campus, when their father, Doctor Fredrick Attenborough, was appointed Principal of University College Leicester. From an early age, Richard Attenborough showed a keen interest in acting and would often perform at Leicester’s Little Theatre on Dover Street. Richard’s younger brother, David, would often cycle around Leicestershire investigating and collecting fossils and other natural specimens.

The late Lord Attenborough maintained close links to both the city and University of Leicester throughout his acting and filmmaking career, notably founding our Attenborough Arts Centre in 1997. Sir David, the world's most famous naturalist, continues to support the University to this day. Most recently, Sir David was the guest of honour at the Alumni Dinner and visited De Montfort Hall in 2016 to deliver the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture.

Both Lord Richard and Sir David were awarded Distinguished Honorary Fellowships, the highest accolade the University can award, in 2006.


Gary Lineker
The Match of the Day host, Leicester City superstar and former England footballer was awarded an honorary Master of Arts by the University in 1992. To this day, Gary still holds England’s record for the number of goals scored in World Cup Finals, having scored 10. Gary is also a Freeman of the City of Leicester and has described himself as a “spud flogger” for one of our fellow Leicester based institutions, Walkers crisps.


Joe Orton
Orton’s tragically short life was plagued by controversy. The Clarendon Park born playwright, whose risqué works include Loot and Entertaining Mr Sloane, was openly gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. Orton’s work achieved much critical acclaim which is thought to be one of his jealous lover’s motives for murdering him at the age of just 36.

The University’s Archives and Special Collections contains a catalogue of Orton’s work including personal letters, manuscripts and original written material.  In 2017, to mark 50 years since Orton's untimely death, street artist Stewy created a mural of Orton in the David Wilson Library. Dr Emma Parker, Associate Professor of English in the University’s School of Arts, has also curated a number of touring exhibitions about Orton's legacy.


Sue Townsend
Leicester born author Sue Townsend is best known for creating Adrian Mole, starting with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ which has sold millions of copies. Townsend penned 8 books exploring Adrian’s progression from an angst-stricken intellectual pubescent to an impoverished middle-aged man with prostate trouble.

The Sue Townsend Archive is housed within the University’s Special Collections and includes hand written drafts of her book which reveal that Adrian Mole was originally going to be called Nigel. Townsend was awarded a Master of Arts by the University in 1991 and became a Distinguished Honorary Fellow in 2008. Townsend passed away in 2014.


Clare Hollingworth
Born in Knighton in 1911, Clare Hollingworth passed away in January 2017 at the grand age of 105.

Clare was one of the most active war correspondents in history and is famed for breaking the news that German tanks were lining up against the Polish border, heralding the breakout of the Second World War. Clare attempted to warn the British Embassy of the impending German invasion but was initially dismissed. In an effort to convince the Embassy of the impending attack, she is reported to have held a telephone out of her window so that the Embassy could hear the German troops on the move.

Clare has written for and held positions at the New Statesman, The Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian and remained active throughout her life. Clare was present at the 1989 student uprising in China and watched the tragedy of Tiananmen Square from a fifth floor balcony.

Clare was awarded a Doctor of Letters by the University in 1993.


Engelbert Humperdinck
Singer Engelbert Humperdinck (Arnold George Dorsey) was born in India but moved to Leicester at the age of 10. Engelbert’s singles Release Me and The Last Waltz both topped the UK music charts in 1967 and sold more than a million copies each. Engelbert also represented the UK at Eurovision in 2012.

Engelbert Humperdinck was made an honorary Doctor of Music by the University in 2006.


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