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How I got into Cambridge University

How I got into Cambridge University

It was 1970, I was 21 and I just got my BSc in Theoretical Physics from Sussex University in the UK. So I went on vacation to Cornwall. I thought I might try surfing.

But my vacation was cut short by a telegram from my Father.

"I just heard from Cambridge University. If you can be there by 9 am tomorrow morning they will interview you for a position as a PhD student".

I jumped into my car and drove overnight. I got to Cambridge around 7am. Everything was closed except for the public swimming pool. I swam and then had eggs on toast for breakfast. Yes, the public swimming pool served breakfast! Now I was ready for my interview.

It was with Richard Eden, the head of the Cavendish Lab. I fancied myself as a theoretical physicist, so I started spouting off about recent theories.

But very soon he stopped me.

"Ken, you're not good enough to do theoretical physics at Cambridge. But if you're willing to change to experimental physics I'll get you in right now".

I changed on the spot and I was in. And he was not joking when he said "right now". He walked me across the corridor to one of his assistants and said, "this is Ken Abbott, he's in, fix up all the details", and then promptly left.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott