Benjamin Hall Kennedy

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For other people named Ben Kennedy, see Ben Kennedy (disambiguation).
Benjamin Hall Kennedy (Walter William Ouless, 1883)

Benjamin Hall Kennedy (6 November 1804 – 6 April 1889) was an English scholar and schoolmaster, known for his work in the teaching of the Latin language.


He was born at Summer Hill, near Birmingham, the eldest son of Rann Kennedy (1772–1851), of a branch of the Ayrshire family which had settled in Staffordshire. Rann was a scholar and man of letters, several of whose sons rose to distinction. Benjamin was educated at Shrewsbury School, and St John's College, Cambridge.[1] He took frequent part in Cambridge Union debates and became president in 1825. In 1824 he was elected a member of the Cambridge Conversazione Society, better known as the Cambridge Apostles. He was elected Fellow and lecturer in Classics at St John's College in 1828 and took Holy Orders the following year. In 1830, he became an assistant master at Harrow.[2]

In 1836, he returned to Shrewsbury as headmaster. He retained this post until 1866, the thirty years being marked by a long series of successes for his pupils, chiefly in Classics. When he retired from Shrewsbury, a large collection was made, and was used partly on new school buildings and partly on the founding of a Latin professorship at Cambridge. The first holders were both old pupils of Kennedy, H. A. J. Munro and J. E. B. Mayor.

In 1841 he became prebendary of Lichfield, and after leaving Shrewsbury he was Rector of West Felton, Shropshire, from 1866 to 1868.

In 1867, Kennedy was elected Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge and canon of Ely Cathedral, serving in both posts until his death. From 1870 to 1880 he was a member of the committee for the revision of the New Testament. In 1870 he also became a member of the University Council.

He supported the access of women to a university education, and took a prominent part in the establishment of Newnham and Girton colleges. In politics, he had liberal sympathies. He died near Torquay.[2]


Among a number of classical school books published by him are two, a Public School Latin Primer and Public School Latin Grammar, which were for long in use in nearly all English schools.[2] The medieval way of writing medieval Latin noun tables, starting with the Nominative and then proceeding to the Genitive was used in England prior to Kennedy's Primer and is still widely used in America and other countries (e.g. in the Wheelock's Latin course). Kennedy changed the order of writing the noun endings so that the nominative was always followed by the accusative, in order to bring out the similarities between these cases in many nouns more effectively. Kennedy's Primer was so widely used and was so influential that this led to a permanent change in the way that Latin is taught in the U.K. Even today modern books such as the Cambridge Latin Course still follow this approach.

Other works are:

He contributed largely to the collection known as Sabrinae Corolla (D. S. Colman, Shrewsbury, c. 1950), and published a collection of verse in Greek, Latin and English under the title of Between Whiles (2nd ed., 1882), with many autobiographical details.[2]


His younger brother Charles Rann Kennedy was a barrister and wrote original works as well as translating and editing classical works. His brother William Rann Kennedy (1814-1891) was a prominent educator, and the father of Lord Justice Sir William Rann Kennedy (b. 1846), a distinguished Cambridge scholar. He is buried in the Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge.


  1. ^ "Kennedy, Benjamin Hall (KNDY822BH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kennedy, Benjamin Hall". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.