Thomas Malcolm Knox

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Sir Thomas Malcolm Knox FRSE (28 November 1900 – 6 April 1980) was a British philosopher who served as Principal of St Andrews University from 1953–1966 and Vice-president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh from 1975–1978.[1]


Knox was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, on 28 November 1900, the son of Scottish Congregationalist minister James Knox and his wife Isabella Marshall.

He was educated at Bury Grammar School and the Liverpool Institute, and then at Pembroke College, Oxford where he obtained a first-class degree in Literae Humaniores in 1923. He then worked as secretary to Lord Leverhulme at Lever Brothers before running the business interests of Lever Brothers in West Africa. His first wife died in 1930 and in the following year he became Bursar-Fellow and lecturer in philosophy at Jesus College, Oxford, later becoming a Fellow and Tutor. His interests did not fit in with those then prevailing at Oxford and so he moved to St Andrews University as Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1936, serving also as deputy principal and head of department. He was thus the natural choice as acting principal in 1952 on the death of James Irvine, and was confirmed in position in 1953.[2]

Knox was widely known to philosophers for his translations and commentary of the works of Hegel and for editing the works of R.G. Collingwood. His scholarship was recognised with the award of an Hon. D. Litt. from the University of Glasgow.[3] In 1955 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were David Jack, Edward Thomas Copson, David R. Dow and William Marshall Smart. He served as the Society's Vice President 1975 to 1978.[4]

Whilst Principal of St Andrews, his main task was to reconcile the interests of the section of the university based in St Andrews with those of the section based in Dundee, Queen's College. However, he later concluded that separation of the two could not be avoided and then decided that it would not be proper to continue in his position as his stated policy had changed. In 1967 Queen's College separated from St Andrews to become the University of Dundee. In retirement, he continued to write books, articles and reviews, including translations with commentary upon the writings of Hegel.[2]

Sir Malcolm was critical of the creation of new universities in Scotland in the 1960s, arguing that universities should have medieval roots and have faculties including divinity. While he reserved judgement on the proposed University of Dundee and University of Stirling, he was critical of the transforming of technical colleges into the University of Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt University.[5]

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1961.[6]

Some of his papers are held by Archive Services at the University of Dundee.[3]

He died at 19 Victoria Terrace, Crieff, Perthshire, on 6 April 1980.


He married three times: firstly to Margaret Normana MacLeod Smith then following her death in 1930 he married Dorothy Ellen Jolly who died in 1974. Finally he married Joan Mary Winifred Sumner, who outlived him.


  1. ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "Sir Malcolm Knox – Former Principal of St Andrews University". The Times. 17 April 1980. p. 16.
  3. ^ a b "UR-SF 51 Sir Thomas Malcolm Knox". Archive Services Online Catalogue. University of Dundee. Retrieved 8 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  5. ^ "SIR MALCOLM KNOX SETS CAT AMONG PIGEONS - University Status for Colleges Criticised". The Glasgow Herald. 1 March 1966.
  6. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir James Irvine
Principal of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
John Steven Watson