Audio pioneer Ray Dolby’s estate makes record £35m gift to his old Cambridge college

Andrew Everard Wed 6th December 2017

Pembroke College describes it as ‘the biggest change to our College in 650 years’

Audio pioneer Ray Dolby (photo: Dolby Laboratories)

Audio pioneer Ray Dolby (photo: Dolby Laboratories)

The estate of Ray Dolby, the founder of the audio company bearing his name, has bequeathed a record £35m to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he was a Marshall Scholar in the late 1950s.

Dolby, who died in 2013 aged 80, founded the world-famous Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965, moving the company to San Francisco in 1976. The company opened its new headquarters in that city in September this year, and appropriately the bequest to Pembroke College – a record amount in modern times – was announced earlier this week in San Francisco, at the launch of the Cambridge University ‘Dear World…’ Campaign.

Born in 1933 in Portland, Oregon, Dolby went to Pembroke in 1957 for a PhD in the Cavendish Laboratory Electron Microscope Group, where he worked on microanalysis using secondary X-rays. That work led to his development of the famous noise reduction system used in analogue audio recording, the company later going on to be a leader in surround sound systems for cinemas and home listening, with technologies such as Dolby Surround and Dolby Atmos.

The gift, given by Dolby’s widow Dagmar and her family, is said by the college to be ‘transformative’: it says the fund will allow the creation of new teaching, research and seminar spaces and to build a new Ray and Dagmar Dolby Court of graduate and undergraduate accommodation. Pembroke describes it as ‘the biggest change to our College in 650 years’.

Pembroke’s Master, Lord Chris Smith, said that ‘Most important, will be the impact on our future students, both graduates and undergraduates: enlarging and enhancing the chance to learn, to discuss, to discover, to create, to explore ideas, to find inspiration, and to go out to change the world. Just like Ray Dolby himself did.’

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