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Rev. Prof. William Angus Knight


1836 - 1916

Philosopher, educationalist and churchman. Born in the manse at Mordington in the Scottish Borders, Knight was the son of the parish minister. He was educated at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, followed by the University of Edinburgh. He appears to have been inducted as a Minister in the Free Church of Scotland, serving in Dundee at Free St. John's, Dudhope Free Church and finally St. Enoch's Free Church (1866-73). He took St. Enoch's from the Free Church into the established Church of Scotland in 1874, serving as its Minister for a further two years. Knight was appointed to the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews in 1876, serving until his retirement in 1902, and taking his turn as Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He was a promoter of women's education, creating the unique Lady Literate in Arts (LLA) course in the 1870s and persuading the University of St. Andrews to allow women to enter for examinations, one of the first universities in Europe to do so. More than 36,000 women were eventually to gain the LLA qualification.

Knight edited the remarkable fifteen-volume Philosophical Classics for English Readers (1880-90), but he was best known as a Wordsworth scholar, and as the founder of the Wordsworth Society in 1880. Amongst his several books on the poet, he wrote Wordsworth's Works and Life (1881-89), which extended to eleven volumes, and followed this with the twelve-volume Works of William Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth (1896-97). A romantic, he corresponded with Robert Browning regarding his late wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and travelled to Florence in 1905 to plant a red rose bush on her grave in honour of women's learning. He published The Browning Centenary in 1912.

Knight was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow (1879). His name is remembered in Knight's Peak in the Cuillin of Skye, which he was the first to climb in 1873.


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