Originally created as a philanthropic venture to provide education, recreation and culture to the people of the East End, we've transformed during the past 130 years to become one of the UK's top universities. Explore our history below and see how what makes us who we are today.
Perhaps the day is not so far distant when around the People's Palace, there may grow up something worthy of the name of an East End University
The Palace Journal, 17 October 1893
Designed to bring education and culture to the local community, the People's Palace is unlike anything the East End has seen before. It features a concert hall (the Queen's Hall), a Winter Garden, library, swimming pool, gymnasium, tennis courts and the Technical Schools. Queen Victoria leads a grand opening ceremony.
1887 – The People's Palace is born
Our iconic clock tower is completed. Looking over Mile End Road, the traffic it witnessed in 1890 would have been a tad quieter – and slower – than the London buses, taxis, bikes and cars that zoom in and out of the city today.
1890 – Changing times
The People's Palace Technical Schools is renamed East London College (ELC) to reflect the growing range of classes offered. Subjects include chemistry, biology, physics, geology, art, music, mathematics and engineering, along with specialist subjects like carpentry, plumbing, bookbinding, dressmaking, elocution and house decoration.
Establishing our tradition of trailblazing research, we launch the first aeronautical engineering department in the UK. An aeronautical engineering laboratory quickly follows and in 1909, we start giving lectures on 'Flying machines', 'Balloons, airships and kites' and 'The mechanical principles of flight'.
1907 – Our work takes flight
Our first Students' Union is created. Unusually, the union is not led by a student but by the Principal, John Leigh Smeathman Hatton. In 1924, Arthur Frederick Miles becomes the first student President and in 1935, we adopt our mascot, Mary the Leopardess.
1908 – Students at our heart
Professor John Turner MacGregor-Morris and his research student, A. F. Sykes, conduct research leading to the creation of the directional hydrophone, an invention that detects a submarine's direction of travel. Their discovery – which started in the laboratory sink and College swimming baths – was later tested off the coast of Scotland and adopted by the Royal Navy in anti-submarine operations.
Hooray! We are permanently admitted to the University of London. Founded in 1836, it's the third oldest university in England. Today, it's home to the iconic Senate House Library in Bloomsbury, and QMUL students have access to its vast arts, humanities and social sciences research collections.
1915 – We join the University of London
Following a boxing match, the Queen's Hall catches fire. It takes 50 engines, 30 tenders and eight water towers to put the fire out. A decision is made to separate recreation and education, and ELC takes over the entire building. The People's Palace is rebuilt and reopened in 1937 by King George VI in his first public appearance as King.
Students from across the country begin travelling to London to study with us, so East London College becomes Queen Mary College (QMC) to represent our changing student body. We are also awarded our own Royal Charter, which is presented by Queen Mary of Teck.
1934 – A new name and a Royal Charter
Continuing our tradition of truly pioneering research, Queen Mary College opens the first High Voltage Laboratory in the UK.
1936 – The UK's first High Voltage Laboratory
Britain is at war and QMC students are relocated to the countryside. Male students are evacuated to King's College and female students to Girton College at the University of Cambridge. Meanwhile, Queen Mary College is used for the war effort, as men of the Auxiliary Pioneer Corps arrive to clear up air-raid damage in east London.
1939 – World War II
St Benet's Church on Mile End Road is bombed and destroyed.
Professor Alick Ashmore starts particle physics work at Queen Mary College and is joined by Professor Peter Kalmus in 1964. More than 50 years later, the work of this group contributes to the understanding of the quark structure of matter. Today, the Particle Physics Research Centre's work is focused on the discovery and identification of new particles, and on testing the quantitative features of globally unifying theories.1960 - Nuclear Particle Laboratory
Rebuilt in 1962 as the University of London chaplaincy, St Benet's re-opens as a contemplation space for students and staff. Its murals were designed by renowned Polish ceramicist, Adam Kossowski. Today, it's a multi-faith centre where students and staff can sit, relax and chat.
1962 – New life for St Benet's Church
Our first computer is installed at Queen Mary College. It is so big that it has to be lifted in by crane. A new central computer centre is opened in May and in 1976, our computer scientists help set up the UK's first internet node.
1968 – Our first computer
The Queen Mother opens our new Biology Building. Later, the building is renamed after our alumnus Gordon Elliott Fogg, Professor of Botany at Westfield College from 1960-1971 and Honorary Fellow of QMC (1975).1976 – Royal launch for biology
The Centre for Commercial Law Studies opens at our1980 – New centre for law studies
As crowds of local schoolchildren line the route to our Mile End campus, Queen Elizabeth II opens our new Library. Designed by celebrated architect Colin St John Wilson, it features a new archive room, exhibition area and even dog-tethering areas on the south porch! Further upgrades are unveiled in 2008 and 2017.1988 – Opening of the Mile End Library
Queen Mary College merges with Westfield College to become Queen Mary and Westfield College. Westfield College was one of the UK's first women's colleges, and opened at a time when there was still strong opposition to the idea of women's education.1989 - Joining forces with Westfield
Queen Mary and Westfield College merges with St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College and the Royal London Hospital Medical College to create Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. The new faculty is based mostly at Whitechapel, but later expands to Charterhouse Square and West Smithfield in the city.1995 – Our new medical and dental school
Barts and The London Students' Association (BLSA) is formed at our .1995 – A student voice for our medics
Professor Paul Heritage sets up People's Palace Projects, a charity exploring how the arts can respond to social crises and make a difference to people's lives. Projects span across the world - from London to Brazil, Liverpool to Azerbaijan.1996 - People's Palace Projects
The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is launched towards Saturn using expertise from Professor Carl Murray in our School of Physics and Astronomy1997 – QMC research heads for the stars
Charterhouse Square is leased to QMC following the merger of the medical schools. Today, the campus is home to several of our leading medical research institutes: the Barts Cancer Institute, William Harvey Research Institute and the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine.1999 – Medical research gets a new home
QMUL commissions Wendy Taylor CBE to create the Knowledge Sculpture for our Mile End campus. Take a trip to Library Square to see it for yourselves - you can't miss it!2003 – Knowledge grows in Library Square
Professor Sir Peter Mansfield FRS, Physics alumnus, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Today, we count eight among former staff and students.2003 – Nobel Prize for MRI
The Westfield Student Village is opened at our Mile End campus, expanding our on-site accommodation and facilities. Overlooking the historic Regent's Canal, it becomes home to hundreds of students from all over the world.2004 - A place our students can call home
We launch joint programmes in China with . The programme model is the first of its kind, allowing students to graduate with two separate degree awards from each institution.2004 – Building a global university
The Blizard Building opens on our Whitechapel campus and takes its name from Sir William Blizard, the founder of The London Hospital Medical College. Four years later, we open the Centre of the Cell - the first science education centre in the world located within working biomedical research laboratories.2005 - The Blizard Building
We launch the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre(LAC) which provides a free, accessible legal advice service. QMUL's own student advisers work with clients under the supervision of qualified lawyers to help them understand their legal position.2006 – Free legal advice centre opens its doors
The Octagon, QMUL's historic library, hosts our Women at Queen Mary exhibition.2007 – Women at the centre of new exhibition
Professor Jane Wills in the School of Geography has tracked the development of the Living Wage campaign since it was launched by London Citizens in 2001. Her research continues to support the growth of the campaign and shows how the millions of pounds can be put back in the pockets of low-wage workers.2008 – QMUL becomes the first Living Wage university
Our research across the humanities and social sciences, science and engineering, and medicine and dentistry goes from strength to strength. In recognition of this, QMUL is invited to join the Russell Group – the UK's leading group of 24 research-led universities.2012 – QMUL joins the Russell Group
Queen Mary begins to award its own degrees (instead of University of London degrees).2013 – New degrees chart progress
Queen Mary alumnus Professor Jack Cuzick is the first to show the effectiveness of Tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer. His team win the 2014 Cancer Research UK Prize for Translational Cancer Research, and he is awarded a CBE for services to cancer prevention and screening in the New Year Honours List 2017.2013 – Cancer treatment breakthrough
Recognition for our work continues and QMUL is ranked 5th in the UK amongst multi-faculty universities for the quality of our research (Research Excellence Framework 2014).2014 – Top 5 in the UK for research
We open a dental school at our campus in Whitechapel – the UK's first new dental school in 40 years.2014 - First new dental school in 40 years
Launch of the Mile End Institute as a major new policy centre.2015 – Political hub at QMUL
QMUL holds its first Festival of Communities, bringing together over 3,000 local residents to explore life in Tower Hamlets. Fringe events, interactive demonstrations, activities and tours showcase the best health, medical, science, engineering, humanities and social science projects in the area.2016 – The Festival of Communities
We launch our Green Mary Garden and Allotment to enhance the biodiversity of our Mile End campus, promote sustainability, and foster links with the local community.2016 – Green Mary
QMUL's Dr Guillem Anglada Escudé in our School of Physics and Astronomy leads an international team of scientists to discover Proxima b, an Earth-like planet which is also the closest planet outside our solar system.2016 – Beyond this world
A new seven-storey, £39m Graduate Centre opens at our Mile End campus. , Chancellor of the University of London, visits the campus to meet students and staff for the official opening in June.2017 – A new hub for postgraduate study
show that bumblebees have unprecedented learning abilities, developing new behaviours and transmitting cultural knowledge between generations.2017 – Busy QMUL bees
Read more about today, or explore our Research Timeline