||This article may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (April 2012)|
13 August 1982 |
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
|Education||Classics DPhil Corpus Christi College, Oxford|
|Known for||University Challenge 2009 series, captain of winning team (later disqualified)|
Early life and education
Growing up, Trimble attended the Ambleside Infant and Middle School 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, Ancient Greek, English Literature and Maths, plus one of the top five marks in the country with A-level General Studies. 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. Her research had been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. In 2010, she was awarded a D.Phil. in Latin literature at Corpus Christi, Oxford on the subject of Catullus.
In 2009, Trimble was elected as a junior research fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and held the position for a year before returning to Oxford as a senior faculty member. Trimble was one of the contributors to the 4th edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary which was published in 2012.
University Challenge 2008–09
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.
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. She won a place on the college's 2009 team after several earlier attempts had failed. 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".
Trimble contributed substantially to the team's success in the earlier rounds. The Observer noted:
"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.
The final was recorded in Manchester four months before it was due to be broadcast; all those involved had to keep quiet about the result until the programme was shown on BBC Two on 23 February 2009. The final was watched by more than five million viewers—the television show's highest audience share since at least 2001.
Corpus Christi's progress in the final 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 Christi team was behind for most of the contest until Trimble, with her team-mates, accumulated 125 points in the last four minutes, to lead her team to apparent victory. Corpus won with 275 points, beating Manchester's score of 190 points. The winners' trophy was presented to Trimble by the poet Wendy Cope.
However, on 2 March 2009, a week after the final was broadcast, Trimble's winning Corpus Christi team was disqualified after an investigation revealed that her teammate, Sam Kay, finished studying at Corpus Christi while the series was being recorded. 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". Trimble was reported on 6 March as being "too upset to comment" on the team's disqualification.
Cultural impact and criticism
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?'"
She had been accused of being "smug" and "snobbish" by bloggers; 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."
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." 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".
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. Bookmakers William Hill had offered odds of 4/1 that she would win the television quiz show Mastermind before 2015.
Trimble is a practising Anglican, and sang in the choir at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Oxford. In March 2009, Trimble became engaged to Tom West, a trainee solicitor, with whom she has a child.
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