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Robert Falconer : biography

February 10, 1867 - November 4, 1943

Sir Robert Alexander Falconer, KCMG (10 February 1867 – 4 November 1943) was a Canadian academic and bible scholar. He was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the eldest child of a Presbyterian minister and his wife. He attended high school in Port of Spain Trinidad while his father was posted there and won a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He graduated MA in 1889 and then spent three years at the divinity school of the Free Church of Scotland.

Falconer was ordained in 1892 but never held a clerical position. He returned to Canada that year and took a lecturership in New Testament Greek and exegesis at the Presbyterian college in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He also began to publish articles in learned journals. In 1907 he became president of the University of Toronto. He steered a middle path, combining pure scholarship with practicality. Thus he introduced more vocational subjects, while also developing higher degree programmes. He sought to maximise the independence of the university, battling unsuccessfully to retain German faculty members in 1914. Nonetheless he was knighted in 1917 for his advocacy of wartime recruitment.

Falconer wrote several books on current affairs, including The German Tragedy and its Meaning for Canada (1915), Idealism in National Character (1920) and The United States as a Neighbour (1926). He was an advocate of broad cooperation between the English speaking nations in international affairs, but was concerned to avoid American dominance of these relationships. Ill health obliged him to decline the principalship of the University of Edinburgh in 1929, and he retired in 1932. However he continued his scholarly work, producing Pastoral Epistles, his most notable work of religious scholarship in 1937.

Sir Robert Falconer: a biography by James G Greenlee was published in 1988.

Honors

  • Yale University, Honorary Doctorate (1922). New York Times. June 22, 1922.
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