Kirk's time at Cambridge was interrupted by war: he joined the Royal Navy in 1941 and was commissioned as an officer one year later. He spent much of his service in the Aegean Sea with the Levant Schooner Flotilla, which included both schooners and caïques engaged in irregular operations supporting Allied special forces. Kirk fought on many Greek islands and along a wide section of the Turkish coast, and was engaged in operations at Tekegas Barnu, Didyma, Icaria and Andros. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in 1945.
After the war Kirk returned to Cambridge. He graduated in 1946 and was awarded a research fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He later became a lecturer and then a Reader at Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1959 and served as its vice-president in 1972–73. He also held visiting positions at Yale and Harvard. In 1974 he became the 35th Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge.
Following his retirement, in 1982, Kirk produced a six-volume commentary on the Iliad and updated his book The Presocratic Philosophers with J. E. Raven and M. Schofield.
Kirk had married Barbara Traill in 1950 and they had a daughter, Lydia. In 1975 he married Kirsten Ricks. He was supported by Lydia and his four stepdaughters through ill health before his death in 2003.
- Heraclitus, The Cosmic Fragments (1954)
- The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1957) with J. E. Raven; a revised 2nd edition was published in 1983 with the help of Malcolm Schofield.
- The Songs of Homer (1962) later edited as Homer and the Epic (1965)
- The Language and Background of Homer: Some Recent Studies and Controversies (1964) editor
- Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures (1970)
- The Nature of Greek Myths (1974)
- Homer and the Oral Tradition (1976)
- Archilochos (1977) with Michael Ayrton
- The Iliad: A Commentary (1985–93) six volumes, editor
|Regius Professor of Greek Cambridge University
1974 - 1982
Eric Walter Handley