The Eagle, Cambridge

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The Eagle
The Eagle, Bene't Street - - 797013.jpg
The Bene't Street frontage looking west
The Eagle, Cambridge is located in Cambridgeshire
The Eagle, Cambridge
Location within Cambridgeshire
General information
LocationBene't Street
Town or cityCambridge
Coordinates52°12′14″N 0°07′06″E / 52.204°N 0.1182°E / 52.204; 0.1182Coordinates: 52°12′14″N 0°07′06″E / 52.204°N 0.1182°E / 52.204; 0.1182
Main signboard of The Eagle, as seen from the Corpus Christi College accommodation above

The Eagle (formerly known as the Eagle and Child) is a Grade II listed[1] public house in Cambridge, England which opened in 1667 as a coaching inn.[2] It is the second oldest pub in Cambridge, after the Pickerell Inn.[3] The street frontage, located on the north side of Bene't Street in the centre of the city,[4] is of circa 1600, with a galleried 19th-century wing behind, facing the courtyard.[1] The site is owned by Corpus Christi College and is managed by Greene King brewery.


World War II[edit]

The RAF Bar ceiling with graffiti of World War II airmen

During the Second World War, Allied airmen, who drank and socialised at The Eagle, used wax candles, petrol lighters and lipstick to write their names, squadron numbers and other doodles onto the ceiling of the rear bar. The tradition is believed to have been started by RAF Flight Sergeant P. E. Turner, who climbed up on the table one night to burn his squadron number on the ceiling.[5] The graffiti, in what is now known as the "RAF Bar",[2] was uncovered, deciphered and preserved by former RAF Chief Technician James Chainey during the early 1990s.[3]

The Announcement of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA[edit]

A blue plaque outside The Eagle

When the university's Cavendish Laboratory was still at its old site at nearby Free School Lane, the pub was a popular lunch destination for staff working there. Thus, it became the place where Francis Crick interrupted patrons' lunchtime on 28 February 1953 to announce that he and James Watson had "discovered the secret of life" after they had come up with their proposal for the structure of DNA.[6] The anecdote is related in Watson's book The Double Helix,[7] and is commemorated on a blue plaque next to the entrance, and two plaques in the middle room by the table where Crick and Watson lunched regularly. Today the pub serves a special ale to commemorate the discovery, dubbed "Eagle's DNA".

Also in 1953 Watson and Crick worked over lunch in the Eagle to draw up a list of the 20 canonical amino acids. This has been a very influential rubric for molecular biology, and was a key development in understanding the protein-coding nature of DNA.[8]


  1. ^ a b Historic England. "The Eagle Inn (1126250)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b "About Eagle". Greene King. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b Comber, Ben (30 August 2016). "The Eagle Pub". Cambridge Independent. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  4. ^ Bene't Street: The Eagle pub, Cambridge 2000
  5. ^ Fenelon, James M. (March–April 2017). "Time Travel: Yanks in Cambridge". History Net. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  6. ^ Ed Regis, What Is Life?: Investigating the Nature of Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 0-19-538341-9, p.52
  7. ^ "'Secret of life' discovery turns 50". BBC. 27 February 2003.
  8. ^ Freeland., Judson, Horace (1 January 1996). The eighth day of creation: makers of the revolution in biology. CSHL Press. ISBN 0879694777. OCLC 33357310.