Coffins for boffins: Britain’s brainiest graveyard

September 13, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

This scruffy burial plot was today revealed as Britain’s brainiest graveyard which boasts the highest IQ per acres of any British cemetery and is the final resting place of some of the country’s most eminent thinkers.

The one-acre Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge is overgrown with weeds and many of its headstones tilt at alarming angles.

But the dilapidated graveyard contains the remains of Britain’s most famous academics including philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and Nobel prize winner John Cockcroft.

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They lie beneath the soil alongside poet Frances Cornford, astronomer John Couch Adams, and a number of Charles Darwin’s descendents.

Dr John Goldie, founding member of Friends of the Parish of the Ascension Ground, believes the graveyard has the ”highest IQ per acre” of any British cemetery.

He said: ”It’s a place that tells the story of Cambridge over the past 150 years: the rise of new disciplines, the struggle of women to be admitted, the opening up to all religions and none.

”I like to think that there’s more IQ lying in this acre than in any other in the country. We’re constantly making new discoveries.

”Only the other day, a visitor pointed out that William Halse Rivers, who is buried here, was the father of psychoanalysis and a key character in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy.

”Then there’s Frederick Hopkins, the biochemist who discovered vitamins.

”But it’s Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose grave is suitably modest and one of the hardest to find, who remains the greatest draw for visitors.

”They come from all over the world to pay homage to him and his extraordinary life.”

The Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground was consecrated by the Church of England in 1861.

Since then many of Cambridge University’s most famous scholars have been buried at the graveyard alongside the city’s most eminent minds.

The tiny burial plot has become popular amongst tourists who flock to pay tribute to Austrian born philosopher Wittgenstein’s gravestone.

The stone marking his coffin is so modest and hard to find that it has been marked by pennies left by visitors.

He lies near to John Cockroft, the British physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for splitting the atomic nucleus with Ernest Walton.

Other notable ‘residents’ are philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe and Bloomsbury Group member Desmond MacCarthy.

Dr Goldie has compiled a guide, ‘A Cambridge Necropolis’, which details the scientists, pioneering thinkers and teachers buried at the site.

The graveyard’s small chapel is now the workshop of American-born lettering artist Eric Marland, who has become the site’s unofficial guardian.

He said: ”You might think it would be a gloomy place, slightly morbid, but actually it’s a little oasis of calm and contemplation.

”I love the fact that people are drawn to the place and the way it connects them – many of the people who visit are on some kind of personal quest.”


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