Samuel Pepys (1651)
The best known of all the graduates of Magdalene is probably Samuel Pepys, who made his name immortal by his diary. He made a unique contribution to our national history by his work as a naval administrator, and he bequeathed to the College its greatest treasure - his library, a unique collection of 3,000 books and manuscripts, still preserved as he left it. Pepys's diary is not so much a record of events as a re-creation of them. Not all the passages are as picturesque as the famous set pieces in which he describes Charles II's coronation or the Great Fire of London, but there is no entry which does not, in some degree, display the same power of summoning back to life the events it relates.
George Mallory (1905)
George Mallory entered Magdalene in 1905 to read history. His career as a schoolmaster was interrupted by the First World War: he was called up and saw action in France. After the war he built a formidable reputation as a mountaineer, and was the only man to take part in all three of the British Everest Expeditions of the early twenties. Mallory will always be remembered for his attempt on Everest with Andrew Irvine, in June 1924, which ended so tragically. The mystery surrounding their last climb and their disappearance just below the summit remains to this day. "Why climb Everest?" was a question posed rhetorically in Mallory's American lecture tours, and the response, given to Harvard undergraduates in 1923, was: "For the stone from the top for geologists, the knowledge of the limits of endurance for the doctors, but above all for the spirit of adventure to keep alive the soul of man."
Lord Blackett (1919)
Lord Blackett OM CH FRS joined Magdalene from the Royal Navy in 1919, and was elected to a Bye-Fellowship immediately after taking his degree in the Natural Sciences Tripos. He left Cambridge in 1933, already a Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 35, and went on to obtain almost every conceivable honour: the Order of Merit, the Nobel Prize for Physics (1948), a life peerage (1969), 20 honorary degrees and - in some ways the most prestigious of all - the Presidency of the Royal Society (1965-70). He specialised in atomic theory, cosmic radiation, geo-physics and wartime operational research. His Left-wing views deprived him of the political influence that other leading scientists acquired during and after the war, but he became scientific advisor to the Labour government of 1964 and to the government of India.
Sir Michael Redgrave (1927)
Sir Michael Redgrave CBE came up to Magdalene in 1927. His later career as an actor was heralded by his leading role in The Battle of the Book, a comic opera about Samuel Pepys which Redgrave directed in March 1930. As an undergraduate he was versitile and personable: he was over six foot three and strikingly handsome. When he played Aguecheek during a West End Twelfth Night, in 1938, the critic James Agate called him "a giddy, witty may-pole". The following year he was the first Harry Monchensey in The Family Reunion by T S Eliot. Strindberg's The Father (1948) was the first of a string of successes which included Hamlet (1950) at the Old Vic. His Richard II (1951) at Stratford was outstanding. His final major work in the theatre was at Chichester, in 1962 as Uncle Vanya, which was later staged at the National Theatre in 1963.
Professor C S Lewis (1953)
Professor C S Lewis became a Fellow of Magdalene "by adoption and grace" (as he might have put it) in 1953 when he moved from Magdalen College Oxford to become Cambridge's first Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. For the last ten years of his life Magdalene became his home in every sense, especially after the death of his wife Joy. Except for the first few months of their meeting, the whole of their seven-year relationship fell within Lewis' time in Cambridge, and was conducted on a weekend and vacation basis, as Joy remained in Oxford. He was unbelievably well read in literature, at least down to Jane Austen, but his formidable intellect combined with a bluff and somewhat intolerant manner made him a dominating personality.