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Hulsean professors

John Hulse, an English clergyman from Cheshire, bequeathed on his death in 1790 a large proportion of his estate to found a prize essay, two scholarships, and the positions of 'Hulsean Lecturer' and 'Christian Advocate'. In 1859, the sudden death from a fall in the Pyrenees of Archdeacon Hardwick, the then ‘Christian Advocate’, led to a reconsideration of the foundation.  The position of Christian Advocate was changed in 1860 to that of the 'Hulsean Professor of Divinity'. In 1934, it was merged with the Norrisian Professorship.

Charles John Ellicott (1819-1905)

In post 1860-1861

Son of a Rector, Charles Ellicott was born at Whitwell, near Stamford, on 25 April 1819. After a grammar school education, he went up to St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1837, where he read mathematics and classics. Winning a prize for an essay on the Sabbath in 1843, he was then elected to a Fellowship at St John’s in 1845, and was subsequently ordained deacon and priest. On his marriage in 1848, his resignation was required as dons still had to be single men at that time. He took a living in Rutland and during the next few years published treatises in mathematics and also Biblical commentaries.  In 1858 he became Professor of New Testament at King’s College, London.

On 19 February 1860, he was seriously injured in a railway accident at Tottenham, leaving him with a permanent limp. Both his legs were broken in the incident, his compensation being a lifelong ‘free pass’ on the Great Eastern Railway between Cambridge and London. The limp nevertheless did not curtail his pursuit of skating and mountaineering.

Later in 1860 he accepted the invitation to be the first Hulsean Professor. His tenure was brief however, as the next year he accepted the Deanship of Exeter Cathedral, followed two years later by elevation to the episcopate as Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. He occupied his see for 42 years until his resignation on 27 February 1905, two months before his 86th birthday.

As a bishop, Ellicott was quiet and efficient in organisation and had what his Times obituarist called a ‘suave independence’, with little time for committees. He also noted that Ellicott had an ‘unimpressive’ speaking voice which hampered his effectiveness at preaching and lecturing. Nevertheless, the new bishop succeeded in doubling church work in the diocese within a decade and founded a theological college to improve clergy education. He worked to halve his diocese, which he achieved in 1897 when the first Bishop of Bristol was appointed, he remaining Bishop of Gloucester. Disraeli wanted to make him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1868, but in the end agreed with reluctance to choose Archibald Tait instead. Ellicott was an efficient secretary of the three Lambeth Conferences and the only man to attend all four that took place in the 19th century.

As a scholar his most notable role was as chair of the New Testament Revision Committee. He was assiduous and thorough in his duties but blamed by some for accepting many ‘minute and unexpected alterations’ that for some exceeded the Committee’s brief. This was despite his reputation as a cautious and conservative man. His commentaries on the Epistles of St Paul ran to several editions, only superseded as the definitive volumes on the subject by Lightfoot’s writings.

He died on 15 October 1905 in Birchington-on-Sea, Kent.

Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889)

In post 1861-1875

Joseph Barber Lightfoot was born on 13 April 1828 in Liverpool, the son of an accountant. He was lastly educated at King’s School, Birmingham, a city where the family moved after his father’s death in 1843.  He went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1847 and was elected a Fellow there in 1852. He was made deacon in 1854 but not ordained a priest until 1858. His first major appointment in the Church was as a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1861 and he also served as a Chaplain to Queen Victoria. The same year he was appointed Hulsean Professor at the (newly-founded) Divinity Faculty in Cambridge. He was elected Lady Margaret professor in 1875 but his tenure was cut short by the Church calling him to be Bishop of Durham in March 1879. Despite his shy and aloof personality, he proved to be a conscientious and effective bishop.

He was primarily a Biblical scholar, his expertise resting on a formidable ability in Greek, Latin and other languages, both ancient and modern. He wrote a series of Biblical commentaries using his facility in linguistic criticism to illuminate the meaning of passages in sacred text. He did this supported by patristic scholarship which facilitated his setting of text within an historical framework. His work is therefore still of relevance to Biblical scholars in the 21st century. His writings on Ignatius and Clement of Rome were as foundational for his legacy as were the numerous biblical commentaries he published. Along with Westcott and Hort, he created the nineteenth-century reputation of Cambridge for Biblical studies.

As Bishop of Durham, Lightfoot had continued his academic work but also threw himself into his diocesan responsibilities. The strain undermined his health. He died on 21 December 1889 whilst staying at a hotel in Bournemouth, where he had gone for a rest.  He left much of his library to the Divinity Faculty in Cambridge and the room designated to hold it in the Victorian Divinity School in St John’s Street became known as the Lightfoot Room.  When the Faculty left for its present home in 2000, the main seminar and meeting room of the new building was named The Lightfoot Room and his portrait hangs on its wall.

John James Stewart Perowne (1823-1904)

In post 1875-1878

J. J. S. Perowne was born on 13 March 1823 in Burdwan, Bengal, as his cleric father was a missionary in India. He was educated at Norwich Grammar School and gained his BA from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he won prizes in Latin and Hebrew. Following ordination and a curacy in Norfolk, he was elected to a Fellowship at his College in 1849. In 1862, he went to Wales to St David’s College, Lampeter. He was officially Vice-Principal, but as the Principal was elderly and lacking in vigour, Perowne was effectively in charge.

Perowne’s expertise in Hebrew had led him to appointment on the Old Testament Revision Committee and it was during his years at Lampeter that he produced two volumes on the Psalms that sealed his academic reputation. He returned to Cambridge to a fellowship at Trinity College in 1872 and three years later was appointed Hulsean Professor.  His tenure was short however as in 1878 he left to become Dean of Peterborough Cathedral and in 1890 was elevated to the Episcopal bench as Bishop of Worcester. He had some success as a bishop but was linked with unsuccessful attempts at ecumenical dialogue with non-Conformists. At times, he appeared to be ’broad’ in his approach but could prove dogmatic and unsympathetic at other times, so that he gained the trust of neither side in some disputes.

The heart of his dilemma was that he was a conservative Evangelical in respect to doctrine but held views his contemporaries judged as ‘advanced’ with respect to Biblical scholarship. This was not an easy academic juxtaposition at the time and so he was criticised from both sides of scholarly debates. Perhaps this led to a certain caution in publishing as he wrote little in his later years. He was the editor of the Cambridge Bible series and also the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools.

He resigned his see in 1901 and died on 6 November 1904 aged 81.


Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892) 

In post 1878-1887

Fenton Hort was born in Dublin on 23 April 1828.  He studied for the Classics Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his degree in 1850. He was made a Fellow of his College two years later, although he had to resign this in 1857 when he married, as until 1870 dons had to remain bachelors.  Having been priested in 1856, he became Vicar of St Ippolyts with Great Wymondley, near Hitchin, where he combined academic study in theology and patristics with being a parish priest.  When regulations changed, Hort was able to return to the University and in 1872 he became a Fellow at Emmanuel College, being appointed Hulsean Professor in the Faculty of Divinity the following year, before election to the Lady Margaret chair in 1887.

He was a prodigious linguistic talent and as early as 1854 was a co-founder of the Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology.  Although he had a strong Evangelical background, his studies opened him to a more liberal outlook with respect to scriptural text and his meticulous scholarship in this field of New Testament textual criticism became his best-known academic contribution. In 1870, he joined the committee working towards a revised translation of the New Testament.  His and Brooke Foss Westcott’s edition of the Greek New Testament first appeared in 1881 and, despite much controversy at the time, was accepted as the most accurate version. He also wrote scriptural commentary and on early Christianity, as well as producing several volumes of sermons.  He remained resolutely detached from all ecclesiastical parties and controversies.  Along with B. F. Westcott and J. B. Lightfoot, Hort was responsible for establishing the nineteenth-century reputation of the Cambridge Faculty of Divinity for scholarship in Biblical studies.

Away from the Faculty, Hort was also an enthusiastic mountaineer and a first-rate practical botanist. He died on 30 November 1892 in Cambridge.

Herbert Edward Ryle (1856-1925)

In post 1888-1901

Herbert Edward Ryle was born on 25 May 1856. His father was a clergyman who would eventually become Bishop of Liverpool, known for writing tracts in the Evangelical cause. After Eton, H. E. Ryle went up to King’s College, Cambridge, where he first read Classics and then headed the Theological Tripos in 1881 winning several prizes. He was elected a Fellow of his college and then was ordained. His first major position was as Principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, but two years later his scholarly reputation led to his appointment as Hulsean professor at the age of 32.

By this time, his studies were concentrated on the Old Testament and he became a popular lecturer even to those for whom his opinions on the authenticity of portions of scripture caused ‘dismay’.  He helped many students as he was sympathetic and approachable. He edited with Montague James a volume of the Psalms, which became the recognised text-book on the subject. Many of his courses of lectures were published and his books ranged in subject from the Book of Genesis to Philo to the canon of the Old Testament.

His intellectual endeavours were halted by his becoming President of Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1896 before consecration as Bishop of Exeter in 1901, when he resigned his professorship and left Cambridge. He was translated to the see of Winchester in 1903 and then became Dean of Westminster in 1910, where he was notable for supporting the creation of the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Warrior’ at the Abbey after the First World War and composing the inscription on it.

He had long been troubled by heart problems and he died, still in office, on 20 August 1925 aged 69.

William Emery Barnes (1859-1939)

In post 1901-1934

William Emery Barnes was born on 26 May 1859. After being educated in Islington, he proceeded to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he studied classics and theology. After ordination, he took many by surprise by his desire to serve in a poor parish in London. After several years as curate at St John’s, Waterloo Road, he was lured back to Cambridge however and a life of research and teaching. He was known for the gentleness of his manners but the outer mildness covered an inner determination and steeliness. He joined the Volunteer Corps on his return to Cambridge and was ever fascinated by the idea of a military career and discussing military history. However, academia continued to claim him. His first home was Clare College, as a lecturer in Hebrew before going back to his old college, Peterhouse as chaplain and then from 1889 as a Fellow. In 1901, he was elected to the Hulsean chair.

His main academic work was in the field of Old Testament and Aramaic studies. He wrote commentaries and was especially significant in his contributions about the Syriac Bible. He co-edited the Journal of Theological Studies in its first five years of existence and also edited the Cambridge Companion to Biblical Studies. He helped advance the cause of Biblical criticism but remained himself a conservative in his approach. He believed the devotional and homiletic dimensions should not be neglected in studying scripture and his many writings were notable for the human element alongside his careful scholarship.

He resigned his Cambridge positions in 1934 aged 75 and retired to Canterbury. One of his campaigns in his later life (unsuccessful) was to reform and simplify the spelling of English words. His wife died in 1917 and they had no children, but he had many friends who appreciated his quiet humour and humility. He remained in demand as a preacher and valued as a friend to the end of his life. He died on 17 August 1939 in Exeter.

Norrisian professors

John Hey (1734-1815)

In post 1780-1795

John Hey was born at Pudsey, near Leeds, on 12 July 1834, son of a drysalter (a dealer in glue, dye and varnish) and grandson of a surgeon. He went up to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, in 1751, and after graduating was ordained. In 1758, he was elected a Fellow at Sidney Sussex College and during his years occupied many different College offices including that of Dean. In 1780 he resigned his fellowship in order to be Rector of Passenham, a rural parish near Stony Stratford, and Claverton, where he lived and ministered faithfully until 1814. To keep him connected with Cambridge, he was elected the first Norrisian Professor in 1780, being elected for further five-year terms in 1785 and 1790. He only resided in Cambridge during his course of lectures however.

He was accomplished in many areas. Before leaving Cambridge, he lectured in Greek, Hebrew and algebra, and gave another series of lectures on moral and political philosophy, heard by William Pitt among others. He was also an excellent musician. His publications included sermons but his most notable contribution was his Norrisian lectures, which were reprinted several times, even after his death. He was frank in speaking of the mysteries of religious faith and this had considerable influence on the Oxford Movement leaders in the 1830s and 1840s.

He left his parishes in 1814 as his health declined and died in London on 17 March 1815.

James Fawcett (1751-1831)

In post 1795-1815

Son of a Vicar, James Fawcett was born in Leeds on the 4 July 1751 and was educated at the local grammar school.  He went up to St John’s College, Cambridge in 1770. He took his MA in 1777 and was elected a Fellow of his College the same year: he had been ordained a priest the previous year.  He became a Lady Margaret preacher and was elected Vicar of the Round Church in Cambridge in 1791.

His sermons were published and they were admired for their composition and the orthodoxy of his theology, which led to his appointment as Norrisian professor in 1795. He proved however a disappointing lecturer, being languid and monotone in his delivery. Many students found his lectures, which they had to attend, dull and uninspiring. He was also awkward in crowds of people and made little social impact. In 1801, the College presented him with a living in Norfolk, where he spent half the year.

He vacated the Norrisian Professorship in 1815, and then resigned as Vicar of the Round Church in 1822, but remained Rector of Thursford and Great Snoring, Norfolk, until his death on 10 April 1831.

Thomas Jackson (later Calvert) (1775?-1840)

In post 1815-1824

Thomas Jackson was born around 1775 in Newsham, near Preston. He was educated at Clitheroe Free Grammar School and then went up to St John’s College in Cambridge in 1793. He graduated BA in 1797 and a year later was elected to a fellowship at his college before being ordained. In 1815, he was appointed to the Norrisian Professorship.  Two years later he changed his surname to Calvert, in honour of a friend who had died and left him a large fortune.

He published sermons and lectures, and a defence of the Established Church in 1834. His last published work was On the Duty of Bridling the Tongue. He was a very popular man owing to his polished manners and his calm, gentle approach to life. He was generally uncontroversial and only entered one public debate: that was his opposition to Catholic emancipation.

In 1824, Calvert resigned his fellowship and professorship on his marriage. He resided mainly at Ardwick, near Manchester, as in 1823 he had been given the Wardenship of the collegiate church of Manchester. (This church became Manchester Cathedral, when the Manchester diocese was created in 1847. The wardenship was therefore the equivalent of a cathedral deanship.) He was also the Vicar of Holme-on-Spalding Moor from 1822.

He died in office on 4 June 1840.


John Banks Hollingworth (1780?-1856)

In post 1824-1838

John Banks Hollingworth’s date of birth is obscure but he was noted as being 19 when he matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1799. He graduated in 1804, the same year that he was deaconed and priested. In 1807, his college elected him to a Fellowship and made him Vicar of the adjacent Little St Mary’s Church. He held these posts until 1814 when he married, and then he took the parishes of St Margaret, Lothbury, and St Christopher-le-Stocks in London, livings he held until his death over forty years later. He also held the position of Archdeacon of Huntingdon from 1828.

As a scholar, Hollingworth published little except sermons, but these impressed sufficiently for him to be appointed to the Norrisian professorship in 1824. He relinquished the post in 1838. His first wife had died in 1831 in Cambridge and he then remarried in 1836. His second wife however resided in Hampstead and was uninterested in living in Cambridge. She may have tired of her new husband spending Tuesday to Friday each week in Cambridge, or he may have missed her too much, but this it appears to have led to his resigning the Professorship.

He died on 9 February 1856.

George Elwes Corrie (1793-1885)

In post 1838-1854

George Elwes Corrie was born in Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, son of the local curate, on 28 April 1793.

He went up to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge in 1813, and became a Fellow there on graduating in 1817. He was an energetic member of the college and held various offices and was keen to help develop the young minds under his care. He hoped to be elected master in 1845 but was disappointed. The Bishop of Ely presented him to the mastership of Jesus College as compensation a few years later. He served as Vice-Chancellor in 1850.

He was also a prolific scholar, editing many historical works for publication by authors such as Latimer, Burnet and Nowell. Other works included Historical notices of the interference of the crown with the affairs of the English universities (1839), and a biography of Bishop Corrie. He founded the Cambridge Antiquarian Society and wrote widely for them. His breadth and erudition made him a suitable Norrisian professor, a post to which he was elected in 1838 and held for sixteen years.

Corrie was a conservative about everything, believing in living in the ‘last ditch’ and swimming against any modern tide.  Adam Sedgwick is quoted in the ODNB as calling him ‘obstinate as a mule ... he, perhaps, never believes himself wrong.’  He therefore opposed any non-Anglicans being admitted to Cambridge and when Cambridge dons were allowed at last to marry (1870), he was appalled as he had ever maintained celibacy was obligatory for Fellows. The advent of the railway was such a menace in his view that its proposal to bring ‘foreigners and others’ to Cambridge on Sundays was for him ‘distasteful’ to the university and ‘offensive’ to God!  He had the merits however of consistency and also a certain dry humour, which may have been behind some of his more outrageous protestations.

He died aged 92 on 20 September 1885, still Master of Jesus College, his mind active to the end of his life.

Edward Harold Browne (1811-1891)

In post 1854-1864

Son of a colonel, (Edward) Harold Browne was born on 6 March 1811 in Aylesbury. He went to Eton and then to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and won many prizes in the course of his studies in theology and Hebrew.  He became a Fellow of his college in 1837, the same year he was ordained a priest. In 1840 he married and so had to resign his fellowship and, after a short curacy, he took a living in Exeter, before becoming Vice-Principal and Professor of Hebrew at St David’s College, Lampeter, in 1843. In 1854 he was elected to the Norrisian Professorship, which he held until becoming Bishop of Ely in 1864. Nine years later he was translated to the see of Winchester. He was considered for elevation to the Archbishopric of Canterbury in 1882 but ruled himself out on account of his age and health.

Harold Browne was the chair of the Old Testament Revision Committee and published on the Pentateuch but his most read and quoted work was on An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles, required reading for many generations of Anglican ordinands. He was against the advent of liberal biblical criticism but was gentle towards those who were advocates of such positions. He was a high-churchman and took a great interest in the Old Catholic movement in Germany and wrote on its emergence in the wake of the First Vatican Council.

He was an uncontroversial bishop, ever fair-minded and eschewing partisan causes, and was one of the first to hold diocesan meetings of his clergy. He was known for his gracious manners and kind heart. He resigned his see in 1890 and died on 18 December 1891.

Charles Anthony Swainson (1820-1887)

In post 1864-1879

Charles Swainson was born in Liverpool on 29 May 1820, son of a merchant in the city, and proved an exceptional schoolboy.  He matriculated at Trinity College Cambridge in February 1837 when only 16. Gaining his BA degree in 1841, he was immediately offered a fellowship at Christ’s College and then pursued ordination as well as academic work. On his marriage in 1852, he had to resign his fellowship and became a curate in London, before his appointment as Principal of Chichester Theological College in 1854. Ten years later he returned to Cambridge as Norrisian Professor in the Divinity Faculty, fifteen years later being elected to the Lady Margaret chair. He also served as Master of Christ’s College 1881-87 and Vice-Chancellor of the University 1885-86.

He researched for many years in the history of the creeds. This led him to an expertise in particular in the liturgies of the Eastern and Orthodox churches. His main published work was The Greek liturgies chiefly from the original sources, published in 1884. His opposition to the use of the Athanasian Creed in Anglican worship involved him in ecclesiastical controversy.

He was known as a man of great tact and courtesy; he was also conscientious and hard-working.  It said that his skilful but time-consuming attention to the finances of his College as well as serving as Vice-Chancellor overburdened him and his health failed as a result.  He died in office on 15 September 1887 and was buried in Granchester.

Joseph Rawson Lumby (1831-1895)

In post 1879-1893

Joseph Lawson Rumby was born near Leeds on 18 July 1831, the son of a joiner.  After attending Leeds Grammar School, he read Classics at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1858 with a first-class degree.  He became a Fellow of the College (until his first marriage), becoming the chaplain after his priesting in 1860. In later years he became a Fellow of St Catharine’s and, for a time, Vicar of St Edward’s Church in the centre of Cambridge.  In 1879, he became Norrisian Professor in the Faculty of Divinity and was then elected in 1893 to succeed Hort in the Lady Margaret Chair.

A notable scholar in Hebrew, in 1873 he joined the Revision Committee for the Old Testament and was primarily responsible for the revised version of the Apocrypha. His biblical scholarship in both Old and New Testaments led to his editorship of the Cambridge Bible for Schools, being responsible for writing some of the volumes himself. But his interests were even wider. He produced editions of medieval and renaissance texts for the Rolls Series and the Early English Text Society, of which of the latter he was a founder. He also produced a History of the Creeds.

Lumby died at Granchester, near Cambridge, on 21 November 1895, less than three years after his appointment to the Lady Margaret chair.

Joseph Armitage Robinson (1858-1933)

In post 1893-1899

J. A. Robinson was born on 9 January 1858 at Keynsham, near Bath, where his father was the Vicar. He went up to Christ’s College, Cambridge, and after completing his degree in Classics, was elected a Fellow of his college in 1881. Ordination followed, and for a while he was chaplain to Bishop J. B. Lightfoot in Durham before returning as Dean of his college in 1884. He also served as a curate at Great St Mary’s and then as Vicar of All Saints’, Cambridge. In all these ecclesiastical duties, he became well-regarded as a preacher.

Influenced by the Cambridge biblical scholars, Hort, Lightfoot and Westcott – especially Hort – he followed in their textual work on the New Testament by looking at the post-apostolic documents. With others, he produced the Cambridge Texts and Studies series, being a major contributor himself. He travelled widely for his research and became a familiar figure in Greece, Germany and France. With a growing international reputation, he was elected Norrisian professor in 1893 aged 35.

In 1899, he was appointed a canon of Westminster Abbey and then Dean in 1902, aged 44. He proved a rather autocratic leader and was not popular with the other canons, so, despite achievements in his role, he moved on to be Dean of Wells at the end of 1911.

In his years at Westminster he continued his scholarly output with theological works on inspiration, the incarnation, unity, the Gospels and the Athanasian Creed. Most notable was a well-received commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. However, the Abbey itself became an influence on his interests and he became an antiquarian, publishing works on its history. He maintained similar interests and publications on Wells Cathedral after his move. This shift was criticised by some as ‘wasting’ his talents in scriptural and theological studies. Indeed his Times obituarist was forthright in such a criticism of ‘no great work’ having been produced commensurate with his talents, noting ‘some reason in his health and temperament, which were hostile to heavy and sustained effort.’ However, his contributions to scholarship over such a wide range were significant and long-lasting. 

He resigned his deanship in March 1933 as a consequence of health problems and died on 7 May 1933.

Handley Glyn Carr Moule (1841-1920)

In post 1899-1901

Handley Moule was born in Dorset on 23 December 1841 into a clerical family. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1860 and his tutor was J. B. Lightfoot. He took a first in Classics and proceeded to ordination and school-teaching. He then spent five years as his father’s curate before returning to Cambridge as Dean of his College in 1872. Five years later, the death of his mother prompted his return to Dorset to act again as his father’s assistant. Only on his father’s death in 1880 did he return to Cambridge as the first Principal of the theological college, Ridley Hall.

Moule was an Evangelical by upbringing and he sort to influence ordinands under his care with his teaching and preaching: he is credited with helping make the evangelical wing of the Church of England more missionary-minded and pietistic. He was criticised however for not encouraging a greater concentration on learning. Nevertheless, he was making his mark as a writer. He published a commentary on Romans, a biography of Charles Simeon, an Outlines of Christian Doctrine, and smaller books on spiritual edification for the less scholarly. He also produced an edition of Bishop Ridley’s On the Lord’s Supper. On the basis of his success in both teaching and scholarly writing, he was elected Norrisian Professor in 1899.

But his tenure of the professorship was brief as he accepted the invitation to be Bishop of Durham in 1901. His record in the see was mixed. He had many inspiring qualities and was liked by his clergy, even the Anglo-Catholics of whom he became very tolerant despite his different churchmanship.  However, he found diocesan administration tedious and was somewhat naive in his judgment of people, so that mistakes were made. He was not politically astute and was sometimes simplistic in his approach. His strong advocacy of victory early in the First World War, coupled with strong condemnation of what he judged as German barbarity, sat easily only with a part of his flock.

He suffered serious illness in 1905 and again in 1915 and had periods of absence from his episcopal role but he remained in post, dying on 8 May 1920 in Cambridge, having been taken ill on a visit there.

Frederic Henry Chase (1853-1925)

In post 1901-1905

Frederic Henry Chase was the son of the Rector of St Andrew by the Wardrobe and St Anne Blackfriars and born at the vicarage there on 21 February 1853. He was educated at King’s College School, London, and then Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he read classics, before ordination in 1876. He was a curate in Dorset but then returned to Cambridge to serve at St Michael’s Church in 1879. He was soon appointed a lecturer in theology by Pembroke College (1881-90) and Christ’s (1893-1901). From 1884-87 the first Vice-Principal, from 1887 to 1901 he was the Principal of the Clergy Training College (that became Westcott House), a post he resigned when he became President of Queens’ College in 1901. He was also Vice-Chancellor 1902-04.

His academic interests were mainly in New Testament studies and the early centuries on the Church. He contributed to Texts and Studies in its early days and some important articles for the Dictionary of the Bible. His Hulsean lectures, The Credibility of the Book of the Acts, delivered in 1900 and 1901, were published in 1902. He had hoped to publish a commentary on the Acts of the Apostles but his scholarly work was cut short by a call from elsewhere.

The reason was that in 1905 he was appointed Bishop of Ely and so resigned his professorship and the following year his position at Queens’ so as to throw himself wholeheartedly into his diocesan responsibilities. Ely was then a much larger diocese than it is today and he took his duties very seriously. His academic abilities were channelled into serving on committees dealing with the possible revision of the Book of Common Prayer and he was very influential in that work. In 1920, he chaired a committee at the Lambeth conference on the position of women. Of his years on the episcopal bench, his Times obituary noted that ‘in modern times’ it was doubtful that any bishop was ‘more frequently consulted, or found his advice more frequently followed.’

In 1924, ill-health forced his resignation as bishop and he died on 23 September 1925.

Francis Crawford Burkitt (1864-1935)

In post 1905-1935

Francis Crawford Burkitt was born on 3 September 1864 in London, an only child of a successful and wealthy businessman. He was sent to Harrow School and went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1882. He first read mathematics and then theology, achieving a first in the latter. His main interests were in the study of the Bible and the first centuries of Christianity. He became proficient in Hebrew and Syriac. He did not initially take any University post, as his family wealth made earning a living unnecessary, and he was able to devote all his time to his interests. Eventually he accepted a University lectureship in Palaeography in 1903 and two years later was appointed Norrisian Professor. He avoided the burdens of College offices but in 1926 he finally accepted a fellowship at Trinity College.

It was as a Syriac scholar that he first became well-known as a textual critic. He helped transcribe the Syriac palimpsest of the four gospels found by the Smith twins (Mrs Lewis and Mrs Gibson) in the convent of St Catherine on Mount Sinai in the early 1890s. He published a two-volume edition of the old Syriac gospels in 1904. His biblical scholarship led to studies of early Christianity and his The Gospel History and its Transmission (1906) saw him as a pioneer in the field. He also instigated the translation from German of Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1910).

His interests grew wider and his publications would eventually take ten pages of small print to list in the October 1935 issue of the Journal of Theological Studies. In addition to scriptural studies and history, he wrote on St Francis and Franciscan sources, on Christian worship, and produced books on Manicheism and Gnosticism.

He was a lively and inspiring person to his colleagues and students alike, enjoying conversation with whoever he met. He was generous with his knowledge and ideas. Outside academic life, he was a staunch Anglican in the Modernist tradition and an accomplished pianist.

In 1934, his professorship was fused with the Hulsean and he therefore became the first ‘Norris-Hulse Professor’. The following May, he attended a Faculty Board meeting and seemed his usual vigorous self. That night he suffered a stroke at his home (1 West Road) and never regained consciousness, dying on 11 May 1935 aged 70.

Norris-Hulse professors

Charles Harold Dodd (1884-1973)

In post 1935-1949

Charles Harold Dodd was born in Wrexham on 7 April 1884, son of a head teacher, and brought up as a Congregationalist. Educated locally, he then went up to University College, Oxford, in 1902 to read Classics. In the first years after graduation, he pursued a multitude of interests, writing on numismatics and archaeological subjects, teaching in Leeds briefly and then returning to Oxford (to a post at Magdalen College) with some time spent in Berlin. In 1910, he entered Mansfield College, Oxford, to study for the ministry in his own tradition. From 1912 to 1915, he was a pastor in Warwick.

He returned to Mansfield College in 1915 as a Lecturer in New Testament Greek and exegesis.  In the following fifteen years he published twenty books, a time in which he developed his striking contribution to his field known as ‘realized eschatology’. In 1930, he moved to a chair in Manchester and his work in the next five years included a commentary on Romans, an influential short book on the parables and another on apostolic preaching, which demonstrated for the first time the oral tradition behind the New Testament epistles.

In 1935, he was elected to the Norris-Hulse professorship and a fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge, the following year. He was the first non-Anglican Divinity professor in Cambridge since the Restoration in 1660. His greatest contributions came after his retirement from teaching and University duties in 1949. He became the general director of the New English Bible project, and lived to see not only the publication of the New Testament in 1961 but of the whole NEB version of the Bible in 1970. He also published his two authoritative books on St John’s Gospel: The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1953) and Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (1963). This influential body of work led his obituarist in The Times to call him ‘the most influential British New Testament scholar of the twentieth-century.’

Dodd died on 21 September 1973 aged 89.


Herbert Henry Farmer (1892-1981)

In post 1949-1960

Born in London on 27 November 1892, Herbert Farmer was the son of a cabinet-maker. He went to school in Islington and then won a scholarship to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to read moral sciences. With the First World War raging, he went on in 1916 to study for the Presbyterian ministry at Westminster College, Cambridge. He became a pastor in Stafford (1919-22) and then new Barnet (1922-31), where he distinguished himself for his deep but accessible sermons, some of which were published. In later years he wrote two well-received books on the role and theology of preaching: The Servant of the Word and God and Man. In 1931 came a call from the USA to be on the staff of Hartford Seminary Foundation in Connecticut.

He returned to Cambridge in 1935 when Westminster College appointed him Professor of Systematic Theology, the same year that he published his first major work, The World and God. The Faculty of Divinity invited him to lecture on philosophy of religion and in 1938-41 he was the Stanton Lecturer, his offerings being published in 1942 as Towards Belief in God. A quiet and unassuming man, his lectures were always well-attended by students of a variety of traditions because they were thoughtfully argued and persuasive. He was orthodox in his theology but understood that a new generation needed a fresh approach to access doctrine.

In 1949, on the retirement of Dodd, the Faculty of Divinity decided to change the emphasis of the Norris-Hulse chair to the field of philosophy of religion. With this in mind, Farmer became the obvious candidate and he was appointed. His old college, Peterhouse, elected him to a fellowship the following year.

He was generous in giving time to work for the Presbyterian Church and was active in ecumenical gatherings. He continued to live in the bounds of Westminster College and be involved in training ordinands, his pastoral work being much appreciated and his influence over many Presbyterian ministers considerable. After he became Norris-Hulse Professor, he worked for Westminster without payment. He was also a strong pacifist, which he argued derived from his understanding of God.

Farmer retired from his Cambridge posts in 1960 and went to live first in Hove and then Lancashire. He died on 13 January 1981.

Donald Mackenzie Mackinnon (1913-1994)

In post 1960-1978

Donald Mackenzie Mackinnon was born on 27 August 1913, the son of a procurator fiscal, in Oban, Argyll. After being educated in Edinburgh and Winchester, he won a scholarship to New College, Oxford, from where he graduated in 1935 with a first in classics and theology. After a short time at Edinburgh University, he returned to Oxford as Fellow and Tutor at Keble College in 1937. He quickly gained a reputation as a scholar working on the interface between philosophy and theology, his individual intellectual stance influenced both by his Anglo-Catholic Anglicanism and his socialist political leanings.

Aged 34, he went to Aberdeen University in 1947 as Regius Professor of Moral Theology. Here he continued his reputation for stimulating and influential lectures and completed his first significant monograph: A Study in Ethical Theory (1957). In 1960 he moved to Cambridge to be Norris-Hulse Professor and for the next fifteen years became one of the Divinity Faculty’s most influential supervisors and lecturers. Many notable scholars and writers of the next generation attribute much to his inspiration and learning. His thought and writings have always resisted categorisation and summary, which is one reason they remain influential, as they tackle questions across the borders of several subjects.

Mackinnon was a kindly and considerate man to others, but could also be inept at dealing with the everyday, being sometimes forgetful and disorganised. It is unlikely he would have been able to negotiate the vicissitudes of daily life without the devotion and support of his wife, Lois. He is often remembered for his eccentricities. Many stories (some apocryphal) are still retold of his mannerisms and oddities and his distinctive speech patterns are recalled. Much of this was (and is) done with affection and fondness, yet the tellers are often unaware of the hidden anxieties that Mackinnon suffered and the sensitivity of his nature.

His work was mainly produced in essays and lectures. Collections of his essays were contained in Borderlands of Theology (1968), Explorations in Theology (1979) and Themes in Theology, the Three-Fold Cord (1987). His 1965/66 Gifford lectures appeared in 1974 as The Problem of Metaphysics.

In retirement after 1978, he continued to travel to give lectures and attend conferences and regularly returned to the Faculty. He died in Aberdeen after a heart attack on 2 March 1994.


Nicholas Langrishe Alleyne Lash (born 1934)

In post 1978-1999

Nicholas Lash was born on 6 April 1934, son of an officer in the British Indian army. He was educated at Downside and then served for five years in the Royal Engineers, before training for the Roman Catholic priesthood. He was Dean of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, 1971 to 1975, a post he resigned when he ceased to be a priest. The previous year, he became a lecturer in the Divinity Faculty, Cambridge, and in 1978 was appointed to the Norris-Hulse chair.

His writings have included works on Newman’s theory of development, the thought of Karl Marx and the role of religious experience. His book Believing three ways in one God (1992) discussed the Trinity in a treatise on the Apostles’ Creed. Other books include: Theology on Dover beach (1979); Easter in ordinary (1988); The Beginning and the end of 'religion' (1996). He has also written regularly for The Tablet and has been a voice arguing for debate in the Roman Catholic Church on controversial issues of recent times.

In retirement he remained in Cambridge.

Denys Alan Turner (born 1942)

In post 1999-2005

Denys Turner was born on the 5 August 1942 and educated in Sheffield.  He studied for his first degree at University College, Dublin, where he took a first in philosophy, before taking a DPhil at Oxford.  He taught moral and political philosophy in Dublin, before moving to Bristol University as a lecturer in theology in 1976. He was the HG Wood Professor of Theology in the University of Birmingham from 1995 before his appointment as Norris-Hulse Professor in Cambridge in 1999. He became a Fellow of Peterhouse.

Denys Turner has written on a variety of themes but his two main theological preoccupations have been theology’s interaction with socio-political issues and the mystical element of belief, so that his books have been on a range of topics from Marxism to medieval mystics. The main titles include: On the Philosophy of Karl Marx (1968), Marxism and Christianity (1983), The Darkness of God (1995), Faith Seeking (2002), Faith, Reason and the Existence of God (2004), Julian of Norwich, Theologian (2011) and Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait (2013).

He left Cambridge in 2005 to become Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology at Yale Divinity School and professor of religion in the Department of Religious Studies.



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