Cambridge's Oldest PhD Recipient

Colonel Michael H Cobb received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2008. He was the oldest person on record to be awarded a Cambridge PhD.  

Cambridge University News Magazine
CAM issue 55 2008

Cobb began his atlas in 1978 and it was at a Magdalene reunion, prior to the first edition being published in 2003, that a fellow suggested he presented his research as a PhD. Several Magdalene fellows, including the then Senior Tutor, Mark Billinge, helped him to steer it through the board of Graduate Studies. 'The atlas is a remarkable piece of scholarship,' comments Richard Smith, Head of the Geography Department and one of Michael's PhD examiners.

'Magdalene is immensely proud of Michael' adds Mark Billinge, now the College's Development Director. 'We are delighted that a lifetime's labour of love should be recognised for the scholarly achievement it represents.

'Michael's extraordinary researches - which would have been remarkable at any age - serve as a powerful rebuke to anyone who considers PhD research to be the preserve of the younger scholar.'  

University of Cambridge Examiners Reports

"The scholarship that underpins  this undertaking is enormous and the accuracy of the end product is extremely impressive. Such a work could not be done other than by a scholar who has an exceptionally detailed knowledge of every railways line and company that ever functioned in Britain. It is an exceptional contribution to our grasp of the development of the British transportation system and done in a way that will encourage much more accurate and quantitative research in future. I have no doubts that it is fully worth of the award of the PhD."

From Professor Richard M Smith's Report
8th December 2007

'We have produced an ArcGIS that combines a system for validating information about railways and stations with the population data used by Dr Gregory. This opens a new window on studies of the historical geography of Britain and one that enable us to conduct a detailed analysis of a series of factors, including population at the parish level and changes in the work force, which will help to reveal the important role that railways played in determining the configuration of the British landscape in contemporary history. This set of key factors was already well-known, but it is only now that it will be possible to measure their respective influences. Colonel Cobb's Atlas makes a major contribution to these aims and one that I think fully merits the awarding of a PhD.'

From Professor Jordi Marti-Henneberg's Report
10th December 2007

BBC News Article - July 2008

Full BBC article can be found here.

Share by: