Dolby estate makes record donation to Cambridge

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The estate of Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories and pioneer of audio signal processing technologies, has made a record-breaking £85 million gift to the University of Cambridge towards the anticipated building of a new Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. The sum means the university is now over halfway towards its fundraising total of £2 million, with work scheduled to start in 2019.

The Cavendish laboratory redevelopment project, which is scheduled to take place over four years, will be the Dolby company’s third home. The donation will also allow for an endowed Ray Dolby professorship in Physics as well as a Dolby research team looking in to aspects of theoretical and computational physics. “In addition to serving as a home for physics research at Cambridge, it will be a top-class facility for the nation,” said Professor Andy Parker, Head of the Cavendish Laboratory. “This extremely generous gift is the most significant investment in physics research in generations.”

The new building is also expected to host a library and numerous new teaching facilities. Dolby’s son, David, commented: “Our family is pleased to be able to support the future scientists and innovators who will benefit from the thoughtfully designed Ray Dolby Centre.” The Vice- Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, described it as a “fitting tribute to Ray Dolby’s legacy.”
The new Cavendish Laboratory, known as Cav III, was first announced in the 2015 Spending Review, in which the government promised an investment of £75 million in the project, to be matched by a further £85 million by the university. Said Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRCC): “A successful nation invests in science, and this grant signals our intent to lead the world.”

The US-born Ray Dolby, who attended Pembroke College on a Marshall Scholarship and was later made a Fellow, founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965 in London. The donation, together with an earlier donation of £35 million to Pembroke College in 2015, means that the family is now the second-largest donor in the university’s history. His widow, Dagmar Dolby, credited the university with playing an important role in her late husband’s life “both professionally and personally”.
The original Cavendish Laboratory was opened in 1874 in the city centre, and moved a hundred years later to its current location, the West Cambridge site. The Laboratory has been the site of numerous Nobel-prize winning discoveries including those into the electron, the neutron and the structure of DNA. Marking a move towards a more flexible alignment of research to reflect the evolving nature of physics research, Professor Nelson added, “The facilities will be open to researchers across the country and encourage collaborative working between academics and institutions.”

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