#UK £85m Dolby gift boosts new Cavendish Lab in Cambridge


The world-renowned Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge has received an £85 million gift from the estate of Dolby Laboratories founder Ray Dolby to underpin the cost of a new building at the West Cambridge site and the establishment of a new, as yet unspecified, research group there.

The benefactor founded Dolby Noise Reduction, Dolby Surround, and successor audio signal processing technologies, which have revolutionised the audio quality of music, motion pictures, and television worldwide.

The Dolby family gift is the largest philanthropic donation ever made to UK science and will support Ray Dolby’s alma mater; he gained his PhD there in 1961.

Some £75m of the donation is for the new Cavendish building which is expected to open in 2022. It will be named the Ray Dolby Centre. The £10m balance will go to set up up the new research group there, further details about which are awaited.

The group, which will be led by a new endowed Ray Dolby Professorship, will build on and further strengthen the Cavendish Laboratory’s status and impact as one of the greatest centres of physics research in the world.

Ray Dolby (pictured above), who died in 2013 at the age of 80, came to Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar in 1957. Besides doing his PhD at the Cavendish he was a student and later a Fellow of Pembroke College.

He founded Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965 and invented the Dolby System, an analogue audio encoding system that forever improved the quality of recorded sound. He moved the company in 1976 to San Francisco, where it has been headquartered ever since.

The new Cavendish Laboratory will be its third home since its founding in 1874 and was first announced by the UK Government in its 2015 Spending Review. It promised a £75 million investment in the Cavendish, which has been confirmed this week, helping maintain Britain’s position at the forefront of physical sciences research. 

The funding will be delivered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Work on the new facility is expected to begin in 2019.
Thanks to this exceptional gift from the Dolby estate, the university has now surpassed the £1 billion milestone in its current £2bn fundraising campaign.

This is the second generous gift to Cambridge from the Dolby family, who donated £35 million to Pembroke College in 2015. The Dolby family is now the largest donor to the fundraising campaign and the second-largest donor to the university in its 808-year history.

Cambridge vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Toope said: “This unparalleled gift is a fitting tribute to Ray Dolby’s legacy, who changed the way the world listened; his research paved the way for an entire industry.

“A century from now, we can only speculate on which discoveries will alter the way we live our lives and which new industries will have been born in the Cavendish Laboratory – in large part thanks to this extraordinarily generous gift.”

Professor Andy Parker, head of the Cavendish Laboratory, added: “The Ray Dolby Centre will complete the development of the new Cavendish Laboratory. 

“In addition to serving as a home for physics research at Cambridge, it will be a top-class facility for the nation. This extremely generous gift from the Dolby family is the most significant investment in physics research in generations and a truly transformational gift in Cambridge’s history.”

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