10 Famous Edinburgh Students: Celebrities and Icons Who Attended Edinburgh Schools and Universities

10 Famous Edinburgh Students: Celebrities who attended Edinburgh schools and universities, including Sean Connery, Shirley Manson, Gail Porter and Charles Darwin

Before their rise to prominence as household names, they attended schools, colleges, and universities, just like us and – perhaps – this might have been the school you attended yourself.

So we researched Edinburgh’s famous faces to find out which schools elevated household names before they achieved the ‘household’ distinction and came up with the following list of 10 famous people from the area.

If you went to school with any of these stars, we hope the list will evoke fond memories of your time with them during their college years.

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Sports legend Sir Chris graduated in Applied Sports Science from the University of Edinburgh in 1999. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he became the first British athlete since 1908 to win three Olympic medals. Gold in One Games. In total, he has seven Olympic medals; six gold and one silver. This makes Sir Chris Hoy Scotland’s most decorated Olympian.
Didn’t you know that the author of the beloved Harry Potter novels studied in Edinburgh? Riddikulus! In 1996 JK Rowling took a teacher training course at Moray House but continued to work on her novel in her spare time. In fact, Rowling wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book in cafes around Edinburgh. A record-breaking film franchise later, she is now one of the richest and best-known authors in the world.
Legendary scholar and arguably the most famous biologist in history, Charles Darwin went to medical school at the University of Edinburgh between 1825 and 1827. His father pushed him to do so, however, Darwin quickly discovered that the life of a surgeon was not for him. Instead, his career as a naturalist took off and he wrote groundbreaking texts such as On the Origin of Species, An Outline of Evolution. A widely accepted theory to this day.
The Scottish actor who has played impressive roles from James Bond to Robin Hood, was born in the Fountainbridge area in 1830. Back then he attended Tollcross Primary School but decided to leave school early at 13 to become a dairyman. Unlikely origins for the one who would become one of the most famous Scottish stars. Sadly, he passed away in 2020, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of many.
Speaking of James Bond, Shirley Manson is a Scottish musician and the iconic lead singer of 90s grunge rock band Garbage. They were responsible for the theme for the film “The World Is Not Enough” in 1999. Manson attended Edinburgh City School of Music. His band became a household name after releasing their debut album in 1995 which sold four million copies and achieved double platinum certification.
Iain Alan Sutherland Glen is the Scottish actor who stars in HBO’s Game of Thrones as Ser Jorah Mormont, an exiled knight. He was born in Edinburgh in 1961 and attended Edinburgh Academy when he was a boarder. He is also well known for playing roles in other famous franchises such as Dr. Alexander Isaacs in the Resident Evil movies.
The phrase “give someone a bell” (telephone) couldn’t be more apt when you consider the Scottish-born inventor who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone. Bell was from Edinburgh, from an early age he attended the Royal High School until he was 15 years old. Later he studied at the University of Edinburgh. Fun fact: Did you know that “ahoy-hoy” was Bell’s original proposal as a standard greeting to pick up the phone?
Gail Porter is a television personality, former model, and actress who began her television career on Children’s TV. She attended Portobello High School in the 1980s before launching a highly successful career in live entertainment. Porter has presented shows and shows including Live and Kicking, Top of the Pops, The Big Breakfast and Children in Need.
Maggie Cheung Man-yuk is a former actress who grew up in Hong Kong and Britain. She has appeared in over 70 films and is renowned for her stunning performances in ‘In the Mood for Love’ and ‘Hero’. She obtained her honorary degree at the University of Edinburgh. You may also know her from famous Jackie Chan movies such as 1985’s “Police Story”.
The former British Prime Minister (2007 – 2010) holds a doctorate in history from the University of Edinburgh. In 1972, Brown won his first political triumph there when he was elected rector of the university during his studies. However, he used this role to scrutinize the institution’s finances – a disadvantage for university officials at the time. Today, he works for the United Nations as Special Envoy for Global Education.

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