A degree from Sheffield paves the way for graduates to do amazing things. From scientists and writers to politicians and business leaders, here are just a few alumni who have achieved success in their field.
Helen Sharman, CMG, OBE
BSc Chemistry 1984, Hon DSc 2017
Scientist and astronaut
Helen Sharman made history when she became the first Britain to go into space in 1991. The Sheffield-born scientist spent eight days on the Mir Space Station investigating the effects of weightlessness on physical, chemical and biological systems. She is now a leading ambassador for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and is President of the Institute of Science & Technology (IST).
LLB Law 1977, Hon LittD 2009
Lee Child is an internationally renowned crime writer and the creator of the Jack Reacher series of novels and films. The books have been published in 49 languages and have sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Lee's philanthropic work includes funding over 50 Jack Reacher Scholarships at the University, as well as returning to Sheffield to inspire current students.
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
BSc Psychology 2007, Hon LittD 2010
Olympic gold-medal winning athlete
Sheffield-born Jessica Ennis-Hill is one of Great Britain's most decorated athletes. Her achievements include winning heptathlon gold at the 2012 Olympics in London and heptathlon silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. In 2011 she was awarded an MBE, and in 2013 she received a CBE for services to athletics and was made a Dame in 2016.
Dame Hilary Mantel (1952-2022)
BJur Law 1973, Hon LittD 2005
Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Booker Prize for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Sales for both books have reached over 5 million copies worldwide. She is the author of fourteen books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black, and the memoir Giving Up the Ghost. Hilary was awarded a CBE in 2006 and a made a Dame in 2014 for services to literature.
BA History 1998, MA Journalism Studies 1999, Hon LittD 2019
Dan is one of the hosts of BBC Breakfast and has been a longstanding figure of BBC Sport. He is the host of Football Focus and has covered a huge number of events, including several World Cups and Wimbledon tournaments. Dan still lives in Sheffield and is an active member of the Department of Journalism.
Former student, Hon LittD 2006
Comedian and campaigner
Eddie Izzard is one of Britain’s leading comedians, actors and writers. Her career began here in Sheffield at the Drama Studio. She’s also well known for her political activism and fundraising achievements, once running 43 marathons in 51 days in aid of Sport Relief. Eddie was elected as the Honorary President of Sheffield Students’ Union in 2010.
BA English Literature 1982, Hon LittD 2001
Director and producer
Stephen Daldry is a BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy, Tony and Laurence Olivier award-winning winning theatre and film director and producer. He started his career at Sheffield's Crucible theatre. His work includes the films Billy Elliott, The Hours, The Reader and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the Netflix series, The Crown.
BA Architectural Studies 1986, Hon LittD 2019
In 1996 Douglas co-founded ‘Goods of Desire’ (G.O.D.) a creative house, designing and selling their own interior household products. G.O.D. now operates eight stores throughout Hong Kong and Singapore, and is one of the most celebrated brands to come out of Hong Kong.
BA English Literature 2002
Screenwriter and playwright
Lucy Prebble is a successful playwright and screenwriter, best known for writing on Succession, I Hate Suzie, and for creating the television series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Her theatre work includes ENRON and A Very Expensive Poison. In 2018 Lucy was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
The Rt Hon Lady Justice Rafferty
LLB Law 1971, Hon LLD 2005
Lady Justice of Appeal, Chancellor of the University of Sheffield
Lady Justice Rafferty served as a Lord Justice of Appeal following her appointment to the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in 2011 until her retirement in 2020. Through her career, she has presided over numerous high-profile cases and has made a substantial contribution to our legal system. She was appointed Chancellor of the University in 2015.
The Rt Hon the Lord David Blunkett
BA Politics 1972, Hon LittD 2016
Former Member of Parliament and Home Secretary
David became the youngest ever councillor in Britain, aged just 22 whilst studying at Sheffield, and was elected as MP for Sheffield Brightside in the 1987 general election. Following that, he served as the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, and later became Home Secretary, and finally Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Penny Hughes, CBE
BSc Chemistry 1980, Hon LLD 1994
Penny is the former director and chair of companies including Coca-Cola UK & Ireland, Gap, The Body Shop, Vodafone, RBS, Morrisons and Aston Martin Lagonda. Currently she is Chair of The Gym Group and Riverstone.
Sir Richard Roberts
BSc Chemistry 1965, PhD Chemistry 1968, Hon DSc 1994
Nobel Prize winning Chemist and Molecular Biologist
Sir Richard is a Nobel Prize winning Chemist and Molecular Biologist, whose research has focussed around the structure of genes and DNA, as well as their restriction and modification. His work with the common cold virus, for which he won his Nobel Prize, has had immense significance for both medical treatments and evolution.
Amy Johnson (1903-1941)
BA Latin, French and Economics 1925
Amy followed her studies at Sheffield by training to become a pilot, obtaining her license and qualifying as the first British female ground engineer, working on and maintaining planes. In 1930, she became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia.
Sir Peter Middleton
BA Economics 1955, Hon LittD 1984
Former Permanent Secretary of HM Treasury and Former Chancellor of University of Sheffield
Sir Peter spent most of his career working in the Treasury, and served with nice Chancellors as the Permanent Secretary. After leaving the Civil Service, he joined Barclays Bank becoming Group Chairman, before retiring in 2004. He also served as Chancellor of the University from 1999 to 2015.
BA Archaeology & Prehistory 2001, Hon DMus 2013
Elizabeth is a renowned opera singer whose voice has been described as “one of the most beautiful Britain has produced in a generation”. Having toured the world she was made an honorary Doctor of Music by the University in 2013 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 2017.
Professor Sir Hans Kornberg (1928-2019)
BSc Chemistry 1949, PhD Biochemistry 1953, Hon DSc 1979
Sir Hans studied at Sheffield with Nobel Prize winner Sir Hans Krebs, and went on to become a notable biochemist himself. His work has focussed the molecular basis of metabolic processes that enable micro-organisms to utilize simple compounds for energy and growth, and has held senior posts at the Universities of Leicester, Cambridge and Boston.
Dr Nicholas Liverpool (1934-2015)
PhD Law 1965, Hon LLD 2009
Former President of Dominica
Dr Liverpool held several senior state positions in his native Dominica, including Chairmanships of the Police and Telecommunications commissions, and ultimately being appointed as President of the Commonwealth of Dominica. He was so successful in this role that the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition jointly requested he stay on as President for a second term.
BA English Literature 1979, Hon DMus 2012
Martin Fry came to prominence as the lead singer of 1980s pop band ABC. Between 1982 and 1991, the band had a string of hits with songs such as Poison Arrow, The Look of Love and Tears Are Not Enough.
Sir Maurice Kay
LLB Law 1964, PhD Law 1971, Hon LLD 2003
Retired Lord Justice of Appeal
Lord Justice Kay became the first Sheffield graduate to be appointed a Justice of the High Court in 1995, and in 2004 was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal, the second-highest level of judge in the English legal system, assessing appeals, reconsidering rulings, and making judgements on cases from lower courts.
BA Music & Politics 1981, Hon LittD 2014
Paul is a noted business and economics journalist, and has worked across the BBC and Channel 4. He has since gone on to write freelance and has written several books, covering the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, and the history and development of China.
Jack Rosenthal, CBE (1931-2004)
BA English Literature 1953, Hon LittD 1998
Jack was one of the early writers for Coronation Street, writing almost 130 episodes. Following this, Jack branched out into a variety of television dramas including The Dustbinmen and The Lovers, as well as his most successful drama: Bar Mitzvah Boy, for which he won three BAFTA awards.
Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe, QPM
Executive MBA 1999, Hon LLD 2013
Former Head of the Metropolitan Police
Lord Hogan-Howe spent much of his career in Merseyside Police, where he took the force from 42nd to the first in public confidence. In 2011, he rose to become Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service responsible for policing for the Olympics, counter-terrorism, and serious organised crime.
The Rt Hon the Lord Jim O’Neill
BA Economics 1978, MA Economics 1980, Hon LittD 2014
Lord O’Neill spent much of his earlier career working across a variety of international banks, ultimately becoming head of global economics research at Goldman Sachs where he coined the term BRIC. He later served as the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury serving on several senior investigative commissions.
Major William Barnsley Allen VC, DSO, MC and bar (1892-1933)
MB ChB Medicine 1914
Doctor and Medical Officer
As a member of the Sheffield University Officer Training Corps Major Allen joined the Royal Army Medical Corps just days after the start of the First World War. During his service, he was twice awarded the Military Cross, and in 1916 the Victoria Cross "for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty", becoming one of the most decorated medical officers to serve in the British armed forces.
Dr John Roberts, FREng, FICE, FIStructE
BEng Civil & Structural Engineering 1969, PhD Civil Engineering 1972, Hon DEng 2006
John is a renowned engineer, responsible for some of the UK’s best-known public attractions including what was the tallest, fastest, and steepest roller coaster in the world - the Pepsi-Max Big One, the British Airways i360 observation tower on the Brighton seafront, and the most popular paid for visitor attraction in London - the London Eye.
Professor Sir Harry Kroto (1939-2016)
BSc Chemistry 1961, PhD Chemistry 1964, Hon DSc 1995
Nobel Prize winning Chemist
Sir Harry was best known for the discovery of Buckminsterfullerene, third form of carbon alongside diamond and graphite, for which he was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. After his award he continued his investigations into the formation and potential uses for the molecule, and had two buildings at the University named after him.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB, CBE, ADC, DL
BA Geography, Economic & Social History 1977, Hon LittD 2007
Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff
Sir Stuart has served as the UK’s Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, and in 2017 was elected as the next Chairman of the NATO Military Committee by the Allied Chiefs of Defence. He spent his entire career in the armed forces, both in active and intelligence roles, and as an instructor for fellow recruits, before retiring in 2021.
Peter Cheeseman, CBE (1932-2010)
BA English Literature, History and Latin 1955, Dip Ed 1956
Peter was a celebrated theatre director with a career spanning over 400 productions over 36 years. He was a pioneer of theatre in the round and led the first purpose-built theatre-in-the-round in Europe. In 1998, he was appointed CBE for his services to drama, and in 2009, he received the Young Vic award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to theatre-making in the UK.
BA Politics 1969
Sports presenter and former Executive Director of the FA
David is a former BBC sports presenter and has held various roles in the FA including Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Head of Football Affairs, Director of International Strategy, and culminating in becoming its Executive Director.
Dr Tom Margerison
BSc Physics 1943, PhD Physics 1950
Science writer and presenter
Tom is most well known as one of the founding editors of New Scientist magazine, but also wrote and presented for the BBC and ITV with a passion for sharing science in the mainstream, the basis behind the establishment of New Scientist.
BA Economics 1961, Hon DSc 2012
Financial expert and Philanthropist
Jeremy is a world-renowned financial expert, who foresaw several recent economic crashes, and also a leading philanthropist and a strong advocate for environmental issues. Together with his wife Hanne he established the Grantham Foundation which supports research into a range of environmental issues, and which made the largest individual gift ever received by the University to set up the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures.
Dr Tony Lewis MBE (1942-2020)
BSc Mathematics 1964, MSc Probability & Statistics 1966
Mathematician and cricket aficionado
Tony was a distinguished mathematician with a passion for sport. Along with numerous teaching and research roles, he is best known for co-creating the Duckworth-Lewis Method for determining the result of one-day cricket matches that are unable to be completed. The D/L Method has been widely praised and adopted worldwide, and has been in use for over 20 years in the professional game.