Founded in 1582, the University of Edinburgh has had its share of famous alumni over the years. From members of the royal family to Olympians and prime ministers, Edinburgh has it all. We’ve made a list of some of their most notable former alumni and what they went on to do after studying at the prestigious Edinburgh University.

Eric Liddell

Credit: BBC

Of Chariots of Fire fame, Eric Liddell was a British Olympic Gold Medallist runner and a Scottish rugby union player. Not just great at sport, Liddell studied pure science at the University of Edinburgh whilst competing for the university in rugby. He is perhaps best known for his strong Christian beliefs that resulted in him refusing to take part in the heats for the 100m race at the 1924 Olympics because they were held on a Sunday, Liddell is perhaps one of the greatest athletes to come out of Edinburgh University.

Gordon Brown

Credit: The Independent

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Labour Party from 2007 to 2010. A doctoral graduate, Gordon Brown studied history at the University of Edinburgh and was even elected as Rector of the University of Edinburgh in 1972. Before entering parliament as an MP, Brown also worked as a lecturer and a journalist.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle Edinburgh former Alumni

The creator of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh as well as studying practical botany at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Conan Doyle was also famous for his support of compulsory vaccinations and even wrote articles on the issue, but struggled to find a publisher for his first work feature Holmes and Watson. Little did he know that Holmes would go on to be one of the most famous literary detectives of all time.

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser

Marjory Kennedy-Fraser Edinburgh Former Alumni

Scottish singer, composer and music teacher who was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Music by the University of Edinburgh in 1928. Marjory was aware that many Gaelic folk songs were being lost to history and she began a project to record and transcribe Gaelic music in order to preserve it for future generations.

Elizabeth Catherine Carmichael

Elizabeth Catherine Carmichael

Famous editor and scholar who founded the Celtic Union in 1894 and the Women Students’ Celtic Society at the University of Edinburgh after discovering that she could not gain entry into the men’s University Celtic Society. She also helped to launch the Celtic Review which she then went on to edit for twelve years as she continued to support and encourage the growth of the Scottish Gaelic language.

Sheila Tinney


Tinney was the first Irish woman to receive a PhD in the mathematical sciences. She completed her PhD in just two years and has been described as “among the best equipped and most successful of the younger generation of physicists in this country.” She published a range of papers including wave mechanics and became a strong role model for young women in STEM.

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar

Before she was a famous Indian actress, Varalaxmi studied microbiology at the Hindustan Arts and Science college before going on to complete a Master’s in business management from the University of Edinburgh.

Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi


Married to Princess Beatrice, this property developer studied Politics at the University of Edinburgh before starting Banda, a property development and interior design company at the age of 23. He holds directorships in a number of companies and is a co-founder of the charity ‘Cricket builds hope’.

Julius Nyerere


Nyerere was a colonial activist and politician. He was the Prime Minister of Tanganyika from 1961 to 1962 and then as President from 1963 to 1964. He studied for a Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh and in 1949, was one of only two black students studying at a university in Scotland.

Charles Darwin


Famous for his contributions to the science of evolution, Darwin’s theory that all of man descends from a common ancestor caused a religious stir at the time and is now widely accepted as truth. However, it was Darwin’s interest in nature that resulted in him neglecting his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh. Somehow, it seems he made the right decision though.