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Edwin Abbott Abbott

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Edwin Abbott Abbott
Born(1838-12-20)20 December 1838
Marylebone, London, England
Died12 October 1926(1926-10-12) (aged 87)
Hampstead, London, England
EducationCity of London School
St John's College, Cambridge
Occupation(s)Teacher, author
Known forFlatland
Parent(s)Edwin and Jane Abbott

Edwin Abbott Abbott FBA (20 December 1838 – 12 October 1926)[1] was an English schoolmaster, theologian, and Anglican priest, best known as the author of the novella Flatland (1884).



Edwin Abbott Abbott was the eldest son of Edwin Abbott (1808–1882), headmaster of the Philological School, Marylebone, and his wife, Jane Abbott (1806–1882). His parents were first cousins.

He was born in London and educated at the City of London School and at St John's College, Cambridge,[2] where he took the highest honours of his class in classics, mathematics and theology, and became a fellow of his college. In particular, he was 1st Smith's prizeman in 1861.[3][a] In 1862 he took orders. After holding masterships at King Edward's School, Birmingham, he succeeded G. F. Mortimer as headmaster of the City of London School in 1865, at the early age of 26. There, he oversaw the education of future Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. Abbott was Hulsean lecturer in 1876.[4]

He retired in 1889, and devoted himself to literary and theological pursuits. Abbott's open-minded inclinations in theology were prominent both in his educational views and in his books. His Shakespearian Grammar (1870) is a permanent contribution to English philology. In 1885, he published a life of Francis Bacon. His theological writings include three anonymously published religious romances – Philochristus (1878), where he tried to raise interest in Gospels reading, Onesimus (1882), and Silanus the Christian (1908).[4]

More weighty contributions are the anonymous theological discussion The Kernel and the Husk (1886), Philomythus (1891), his book The Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman (1892), and his article "The Gospels" in the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, embodying a critical view which caused considerable stir in the English theological world. He also wrote St Thomas of Canterbury, His Death and Miracles (1898), Johannine Vocabulary (1905), and Johannine Grammar (1906).[4]

Abbott also wrote educational textbooks, one being Via Latina: A First Latin Book which was published in 1880 and distributed around the world within the education system.


Flatland title page, 1884

Abbott's best-known work is his 1884 novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions which describes a two-dimensional world and explores the nature of dimensions. It has often been categorized as science fiction although it could more precisely be called "mathematical fiction".

With the advent of modern science fiction from the 1950s to the present day, Flatland has seen a revival in popularity,[5] especially among science fiction and cyberpunk fans.[6] Many works have been inspired by the novella, including novel sequels and short films.[6]



See also


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ This seems to be an error by Venn: Colby's preface to Abbott's Flatland states that Abbott was 7th Senior Optime, Senior Classic and 1st Chancellor's Medallist in 1861; William Steadman Aldis was 1st Smith's Prizeman in 1861.


  1. ^ Thorne and Collocott 1984, p. 2.
  2. ^ Malden, Richard, ed. (1920). Crockford's Clerical Directory for 1920 (51st ed.). London: The Field Press. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Abbott, Edwin Abbott (ABT857EA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abbott, Edwin Abbott". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 26.
  5. ^ Clute and Nicholls 1995, p. 1.
  6. ^ a b Harper 2010

Further reading