F. M. Cornford

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Francis Macdonald Cornford, FBA (27 February 1874 – 3 January 1943) was an English classical scholar and poet; because of the similarity of his christian name and his wife's, he was known to family as "FMC" and his wife Frances Cornford was known as "FCC".

He was educated at St Paul's School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Fellow from 1899 and held a university teaching post from 1902.[1] He became Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy in 1931 and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1937.

His work Thucydides Mythistoricus (1907) argued that Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War was informed by Thucydides' tragic view. From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Speculation (1912) sought out the deep religious and social categories and concepts that informed the achievements of the early Greek philosophers. He returned to this theme in Principium Sapientiae: The Origins of Greek Philosophical Thought (posthumously published, 1952). In some circles he may be better known for his Microcosmographia Academica (1908), the classic insider's satire on academic politics. It is the source of a number of catchphrases, such as the doctrine of unripeness of time, The Principle of the Wedge, and Principle of the Dangerous Precedent.[2][3]

He married the poet Frances Darwin, daughter of Francis Darwin and granddaughter of Charles Darwin — she became known under her married name. They had five children; Christopher, Clare, Helena, Hugh, and the poet John Cornford. Matthew Chapman is their grandson through Clare.

He was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium on 6th January 1943, but his wife is separately buried with her father Francis Darwin; his cremated remains are presumed to be buried with his wife and father-in-law as his name also appears on their gravestone in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground.


  1. ^ Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Cornford, Francis Macdonald". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Peter Wilby Pass the sickbag, Alice New Statesman 30 April 2009
  3. ^ Slavery was theft: we should pay New Statesman 10 September 2001

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy Cambridge University
1930 - 1939
Succeeded by
Reginald Hackforth