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Crumbs: looking back on how biscuits built a University – University of Reading

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Crumbs: looking back on how biscuits built a University

Release Date 13 November 2006

The humble digestive has served many a lecturer well for a mid-morning dunk during a staff room coffee break – but the University of Reading has a lot more to thank it for than that. Bath Olivers, Morning Coffee and the Ginger Nut should also be thanked – and this fascinating link with our favourite biscuits will be recalled in a lecture next month. University of Reading lecturer Dr Tony Corley will talk on how the University of Reading was founded after biscuit-makers Huntley & Palmer came to Reading in 1846, inadvertently taking the first steps to creating the University as we know it today. George Palmer, co-founder of the biscuit firm, had come to Reading determined to invent the world's first continuously- running biscuit machinery. In November 1846 he started up his mechanical production of biscuits, and his enthusiasm for education led him to support many educational initiatives in Victorian Reading. Among those initiatives were the Mechanics' Institution and the Schools of Science, Art and Agriculture which in 1892 came together in Reading University Extension College, later Reading University College. The collaboration between its pioneering principal, William M Childs, and George's three sons culminated in George William Palmer's and Lady Wantage's spectacular donation in 1911 of a £200,000 endowment fund, which allowed University of Reading to be established fifteen years later. Since then, no fewer than five members of the Palmer family have given distinguished service to the University's Council. Dr Corley's well-researched lecture, illustrated by some evocative slides, discusses some of the Palmer family's many financial and personal contributions to the University, to its formation and to its subsequent impressive growth. He will also add reminiscences of his 40 years' academic life at Reading. The lecture will take place on Wednesday December 6, at 6pm (with tea and biscuits at 5.30pm), in the Wolfgang van Emden Theatre, in the Humanities and Social Sciences building on Whiteknights campus. For more information, log onto University of Reading events. It is free to attend, no ticket is required and all are welcome. Any media requiring more information should contact Lucy Ferguson, senior press officer, on 0118 378 7388 or email

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