Cambridge to revamp lab in memory of sound pioneer Ray Dolby after £85m gift

The estate of sound pioneer Ray Dolby has donated £85 million to Cambridge University.

Dolby was at Cambridge from 1957 to 1961, and he founded Dolby Laboratories four years later.

It went on to invent sound technologies which made him a fortune, including Dolby Surround, familiar to cinema-goers, Dolby Noise Reduction and the Dolby System.

The £85 million gift, which is the largest philanthropic donation ever made to UK science, will help redevelop an entire laboratory.

The Cavendish Laboratory redevelopment will be named the Ray Dolby Centre, and is expected to open in 2022.

Dolby, who died in 2013 at the age of 80, was a student and later a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

His son, David Dolby, said many of his father's ideas were stimulated by his time at Cambridge.

"My father's time at the Cavendish provided him with an environment where he got a world-class education in physics, and many of his successful ideas about noise reduction were stimulated by his Cambridge experience," he said.

"Our family is pleased to be able to support the future scientists and innovators who will benefit from the thoughtfully designed Ray Dolby Centre."

Dolby's widow, Dagmar, said: "The University of Cambridge played a pivotal role in Ray's life, both personally and professionally.

"At Cambridge and at the Cavendish, he gained the formative education and insights that contributed greatly to his lifelong groundbreaking creativity, and enabled him to start his business."

The Dolby family previously donated £35 million to Pembroke College in 2015.

Ray Dolby credited Cambridge University for his successes (Nick Ansell/PA)
Ray Dolby credited Cambridge University for his successes (Nick Ansell/PA)

It is now the second-largest donor to Cambridge University in its 808-year history. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave 210 million US dollars for a postgraduate scholarship programme.

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."

The new Cavendish Laboratory will be its third home since its founding in 1874.

Its researchers have made many contributions to the development of science over the past 140 years, including the discovery of the electron and of the neutron, and the unravelling of the structure of DNA.

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