John Burnet

On  December 9th 1863, Classicist John Burnet was born. Burnet began his studies in his hometown of Edinburgh, studying at Edinburgh’s Royal High School and Edinburgh University. In 1883 he moved to Balliol College, Oxford gaining a First Class in both Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores. The bulk of Burnet’s academic career though was spent at the University of St Andrews.

Burnet came to St Andrews in 1887. He began as personal assistant to Lewis Campbell and succeeded Campbell as Greek Chair in 1892. Burnet retained this post until his retirement in 1926, turning down the offer of Chair at Harvard in 1909! His work on Greek philosophy, particularly that of Plato, developed under Campbell while at St Andrews. Burnet’s commentaries continue to be relevant to scholarship decades later. Burnet died in 1828, two years after his retirement, in St Andrews which he had called home for over forty years.


The School of Classics in St Andrews continues to be an academic presence, ranking second overall for research excellence in 2014.

At MUSA until mid January, you can explore the current research of the School of Classics in ‘Through a Glass Darkly: Perceptions of Art, Artefact and Context’ Exhibition, a joint venture between Professor Rebecca Sweetman and her team at the School of Classics and Alison Hadfield and the Learning and Access team of the University of St Andrews Museum Collections Unit.

To learn more about John Burnet, be sure to visit Gallery 3 which features a copy of Burnet’s Early Greek Philosophy, published in 1892 when he was only twenty-eight. His story is just one of many prominent scholars to have researched and taught at St Andrews.


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