The mind has always
been key to Oxford’s successes, and it’s not
just the university where this comes into focus.
Oxford is the birthplace of both Mensa and Oxfam,
two pioneering companies that have had a huge impact on
the way Britain thinks.
Mensa was formed in 1946 in Oxford by Roland Berril and
Lancelot Lionel Ware, who decided that there should be
a society for people with high lQs — a place where
people from all backgrounds and educational levels could
meet to discuss ideas. The name “Mensa” (meaning
table) was chosen, and a new organisation started.
The official stated purposes of Mensa are:
The first two aims are met through activities such as
the awarding of scholarships, and the gifted children
programme and a 'stimulating intellectual and social
environment' is available to all who want it through the
many weekly, monthly, yearly and sporadic activities organised
by local and national members.
- to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit
- to encourage research in the nature, characteristics,
and uses of intelligence;
- to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment
for its members.
Oxfam began as the national Famine Relief Committee and was set up in May 1942 to provide relief for the people
of Greece who were blockaded by the Nazis during World
Famine Relief tried to persuade the British government
to allow essential supplies through the blockade, and
they raised funds for war refugees and displaced people
The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief met for the first
time on the 5th October 1942. Among its founding members
were Canon T R Milford of the University Church and Professor
Gilbert Murray, a member of the national committee and
former Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford.
Many of the Relief Committees ended after the war, but
the Oxford Committee saw a continuing need and
enlarged its objectives to include ‘the relief of
suffering in consequence of the war’. Activity then
centred on the provision of food parcels and clothing to Europe.
From 1948 grants were made to projects in Europe and elsewhere
and in 1949 the committee’s objectives were again
broadened to ‘the relief of suffering arising as
a result of wars or of other causes in any part of the
world.’ The committee gradually became known by
its abbreviated telegraph address, Oxfam (this name was
formally adopted in 1965).
Oxfam continued to work throughout the remainder of the
20th century to provide relief overseas to those who needed
it most and today it continues to offer pioneering
support in some of the world’s poorest countries.