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F. M. Cornford

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F. M. Cornford
Francis Macdonald Cornford

(1874-02-27)27 February 1874
Eastbourne, England
Died3 January 1943(1943-01-03) (aged 68)
Cambridge, England
(m. 1909)
Academic background
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
Academic work
InstitutionsTrinity College, Cambridge
Notable studentsW. K. C. Guthrie

Francis Macdonald Cornford FBA (27 February 1874 – 3 January 1943) was an English classical scholar and translator known for work on ancient philosophy, notably Plato, Parmenides, Thucydides, and ancient Greek religion. Frances Cornford, his wife, was a noted poet. Due to the similarity in their names, he was known in the family as "FMC" and his wife as "FCC".[2]

Early life and family[edit]

Cornford was born in Eastbourne, Sussex, on 27 February 1874.[2] He attended St Paul's School, London.[2]

In 1909 Cornford married the poet Frances Darwin, daughter of Sir Francis Darwin and Ellen Wordsworth Darwin, née Crofts, and a granddaughter of Charles Darwin. They had five children:

Academic career[edit]

Cornford was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Fellow from 1899 and held a teaching post from 1902.[5] He became the first Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy in 1931 and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1937.[2] He used wit and satire to propagate proposals for reforming the teaching of the classics at Cambridge, in Microcosmographia Academica (1908).[2]

Cornford coined the phrase "twin pillars of Platonism", referring to the theory of Forms on the one hand, and, on the other the doctrine of immortality of the soul.[6]

He died on 3 January 1943 in his home, Conduit Head in Cambridge.[2] He was cremated at Cambridge Crematorium on 6 January 1943.[2]


  • Thucydides Mythistoricus (1907) put the argument that Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War was informed by Thucydides's tragic view.
  • From Religion to Philosophy: A Study in the Origins of Western Speculation (1912) sought the deep religious and social concepts that informed the early Greek philosophers. He returned to this in Principium Sapientiae: The Origins of Greek Philosophical Thought (posthumous, 1952).
  • Microcosmographia Academica (1908) was an insider's satire on academic politics. It was the source of catch phrases such as the "doctrine of unripeness of time", the "principle of the wedge" and the "principle of the dangerous precedent".[7][8]
  • Before and After Socrates (1932)
  • Plato's Cosmology : The Timaeus of Plato. Hackett Publishing Company (1935)
  • According to the preface to The Republic of Plato, translated with an introduction and notes (OUP, 1941), it "aims at conveying... as much as possible of the thought of the Republic in the most convenient and least misleading form."

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Johnson 2008, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hackforth & Gill 2004.
  3. ^ Pearce, Jeremy (4 December 2007). "Joseph L. Henderson, 104; Expanded Jungian Methods". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  4. ^ Hartog 1998.
  5. ^ "Cornford, Francis Macdonald (CNFT893FM)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  6. ^ Francis Cornford, 1941. The Republic of Plato. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. xxv.
  7. ^ Wilby, Peter (4 May 2009). "Pass the Sickbag, Alice". New Statesman. Vol. 138, no. 4947. London. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  8. ^ "Slavery Was Theft: We Should Pay". New Statesman. London. 10 September 2001. Retrieved 13 November 2019.


External links[edit]

Academic offices
New office Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy
Succeeded by