Gail Trimble

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Gail Trimble
Born (1982-08-13) 13 August 1982 (age 31)
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Nationality English
Education Classics DPhil Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Known for University Challenge 2009 series, captain of winning team (later disqualified)
Religion Anglican

Gail Christina Trimble (born 13 August 1982[1]) is a senior faculty member in Classics at Trinity College, Oxford.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Trimble was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, to Mary and Michael Trimble. Her father worked as a manager for British Telecom[3] and her mother was a magistrate at Staines Magistrates Court.[4]

Growing up, Trimble attended the Ambleside Infant and Middle School[4] before enrolling at the girls-only Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hampton, London. While there, she gained 11 GCSE certificates followed by four A-levels at grade A: in Latin, Greek, English Literature and Maths,[4][5] plus one of the top five marks in the country with A-level General Studies.[6] She was awarded a place at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 2000. She won a declamation prize at Oxford for Latin recital in 2001 and was also reported to give recitals in her lunchtimes at college as a soprano singer, and lecture on Ovid, Hellenistic poetry and Catullus.[5][7] Her research had been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.[8] In 2010, she was awarded a D.Phil. in Latin literature at Corpus Christi, Oxford on the subject of Catullus.[9]


In 2009, Trimble was elected as a junior research fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge[10][11] and held the position for a year before returning to Oxford as a senior faculty member.[2] Trimble was one of the contributors to the 4th edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary which was published in 2012.[12]

University Challenge 2009[edit]

While a postgraduate student of Latin literature at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 2009, she gained media attention by a series of exceptional performances on the BBC television quiz programme University Challenge. Trimble captained the Corpus Christi team from the second round onwards, and scored a notably high proportion of the team's points.

The final, broadcast on 23 February 2009,[13] was watched by more than five million viewers—the television show's highest audience share since at least 2001.[14][15] She is notable for having scored 125 points in the last four minutes, to lead her team to apparent victory.[16] However, a week after the final was broadcast, her team was disqualified after an investigation revealed that her teammate, Sam Kay, finished studying at Corpus Christi while the series was being recorded.[17]

She was described in the British press as a "TV quiz phenomenon"[5] and the "human Google",[18] and by a defeated contestant as a "relentless juggernaut of intellectual Blitzkrieg".[19]

Trimble had previously sat in the audience during the recording of the University Challenge 2005-series final, which had been won by Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[4]

She won a place on the college's 2009 team after several earlier attempts had failed. Participating in the show, Trimble contributed substantially to the team's success in the earlier rounds. The Observer noted:[5]

"In the Oxford college's run to the final, Trimble has scored more points than her three team-mates combined. In their semi-final, Corpus Christi defeated St John's College, Cambridge, 260-150. Trimble's personal haul was 185. In the quarter-finals, Trimble racked up a record 15 starters-for-10 as Corpus Christi raced to 350 points. Opponents Exeter University limped to 15 points, the equivalent of one correct starter and bonus. It was the lowest score since 1971 and only five points more than the worst of all time."

In the rounds before reaching the final, Trimble had provided two thirds of her team's total points: 825 out of 1,235.[5] The final win was initially more of a team effort, with Trimble even getting the odd answer wrong—buzzing to answer "Pollyanna" when the correct answer would have been "Goody Two-Shoes". The Corpus team was behind for most of the contest until Trimble, with her team-mates, accumulated 125 points within the last four minutes. Corpus won with 275 points, beating Manchester's score of 190 points.[16]

The final of the 2008–2009 series had been recorded in Manchester four months before it had been due to be broadcast; all those involved had had to keep quiet about the result until the programme was shown on BBC Two on 23 February 2009. The winners' trophy had been presented to Trimble by the poet Wendy Cope.[20] Trimble revealed that she had previously had difficulty getting on to the college University Challenge team, making three or four attempts. "I've tried over the years with different teams for the college, but we never made it".[21]

The winning Corpus team was subsequently disqualified on 2 March 2009, after it was revealed that another of the team members, Sam Kay, had no longer been a student at the University for the latter part of the series' recordings. The winner's trophy was re-awarded to the runners up, Manchester University. Cassandra Jardine, of The Daily Telegraph called on Trimble to seek a rematch, describing her as "the Usain Bolt of general knowledge".[22] Trimble was reported on 6 March as being "too upset to comment" on the team's disqualification.[23]

Cultural impact and criticism[edit]

After the final was broadcast, she said she was getting used to being in the public eye. She said that she had been approached by a men's magazine to take part in a "tasteful photoshoot", revealing that Nuts magazine had already been in touch. She said, "Would you believe it, my brother received a Facebook message from Nuts yesterday morning saying 'can we have your sister's email address, we want her to do a tasteful shoot'... So of course he sent them an answer saying: 'Seriously mate, would you give your sister's contact details to Nuts?'"[24][25]

She had been accused of being "smug" and "snobbish" by bloggers;[5] however, she has been defended by University Challenge's host, Jeremy Paxman, who said of her "she's actually had rather a mean sort of press. People have accused her of sneering. Actually I think she's quite shy."[26]

The Independent 's columnist Nicholas Lezard stated: "The intellectual powerhouse that is Gail Trimble, captain of Corpus Christi's all-conquering University Challenge team, has divided the nation like no other figure since Margaret Thatcher...Such scorn as she has suffered is really about nothing more than the man's fear of the clever woman."[27] The Mail on Sunday compared her to the recently deceased reality TV star Jade Goody, saying of the bloggers:[28]

"You can see how much easier it is to take Jade Goody for your role model ahead of Gail Trimble. If you know nothing, and see someone getting rich and famous precisely for that reason, you are instantly validated. You, too, could become the next poster girl for ignorance. How comforting, too, if the moment an awesomely intelligent woman does come along, you're allowed to attack her for being smug and snobbish."

The Daily Mail's columnist Melanie Phillips wrote that "if anything demonstrates Britain's steady descent into baying brutishness, it is surely the treatment meted out to Gail Trimble."[29]

Trimble later stated, "I'm glad that people are being nice about me rather than nasty but ... I very much think this would not be happening if I was a man".[20]

On 1 March 2009, it was reported that Trimble had turned down a "five-figure sum" to become the face of Hyundai's new "intelligent" car.[18] Bookmakers William Hill had offered odds of 4/1 that she would win the television quiz show Mastermind before 2015.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Trimble is a practising Anglican, and sang in the choir at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.[31] In March 2009, Trimble became engaged to Tom West, a trainee solicitor.[31][32][33]


  1. ^ "Trimble, Gail, 1982–". Library of Congress Authorities. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Dr Gail Trimble". Classics: People: Academic Staff. University of Oxford. Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  3. ^ Fernandez, Colin; Ballinger, Lucy (2009-02-24). "Your starter for ten: Why do so many people hate this girl simply for being clever?". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  4. ^ a b c d Eltis, Vicki (2009-12-31). "Walton's Gail in finals of University Challenge". Surrey Herald. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Gallagher, Paul (2009-02-22). "Your starter for 10: is Gail Trimble the cleverest contestant ever?". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  6. ^ "Borough-wide delight at exam results". UK Newsquest Regional Press - This is Local London (LexisNexis reprint). 2000-08-23. 
  7. ^ Baggott, Sophie (10 December 2013). "No flailing for Gail: Trimble plots her desert island library". The Oxford Student. 
  8. ^ "AHRC-funded scholar makes history as University Challenge's greatest contestant ever". Latest News. Arts and Humanities Research Council. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  9. ^ Ashworth, Pat (2009-02-27). "Gail Trimble quizzed ... out". Church Times. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  10. ^ "Miss Gail Trimble". Directory of Fellows. Trinity College Cambridge. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  11. ^ "Dr Gail Trimble". The Faculty. Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Harry Mount (2012-05-12). "The classical world just refuses to stay dead". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  13. ^ Billen, Andrew (2009-02-24). "One-woman winning machine Gail Trimble rises to the final University Challenge". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  14. ^ Rogers, Jon (2009-02-24). "University Challenge final scores 5.3m". Broadcastnow. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  15. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (2009-02-24). "TV ratings: British Law & Order debut arrests 6m viewers". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  16. ^ a b Gallagher, Paul (2009-03-01). "Gail Trimble's University Challenge winning teammate is not a student". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  17. ^ "University Challenge: a joint statement from the BBC and Granada". 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  18. ^ a b Mansey, Kate (2009-03-01). "University Challenge champions investigated over ineligible player". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  19. ^ Funnell, Jacob (2009-01-28). "On University Challenge (Illustrated)". Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  20. ^ a b Wylie, Ian (2009-02-24). "Manchester lose to quiz queen". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  21. ^ Fryer, Jane (2009-02-24). "'I do worry what people think of me...I try really hard not to seem clever'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  22. ^ Jardine, Cassandra (2009-03-03). "Gail Trimble must demand a rematch". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-03-03. 
  23. ^ Routledge, Paul (2009-03-06). "Why University Challenge star Gail Trimble has a lot to learn from Jade Goody". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  24. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (2009-02-24). "University Challenge star Gail Trimble adapts to public eye". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  25. ^ Booth, Jenny (2009-02-24). "University Challenge genius Gail Trimble: I have learnt to deal with taunts". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  26. ^ Sillito, David (2009-02-24). "Student rocks University Challenge". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  27. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (2009-02-25). "The challenge of Gail Trimble". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  28. ^ Mount, Harry (2009-02-24). "Why do we love Jade Goody and vilify a University Challenge brainbox for being bright?". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  29. ^ Phillips, Melanie (2009-02-24). "What the mob really hates about Gail Trimble is her glowing self-confidence". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  30. ^ "Bookies Tremble As They Challenge Trimble To Charity Bet". Casino Beacon. 2009-03-01. 
  31. ^ a b Boyd, Charles (2009-03-02). "University Challenge star is 'thoughtful and reflective', says chaplain". Christian Today. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  32. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (2009-03-01). "No conferring needed as brainbox Gail says yes to marriage proposal". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  33. ^ Waugh, Paul (2009-02-23). Blogs. "Univ Challenge Trimble..a nation trembles". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 

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