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Kenneth James Dover (with kind permission of KNAW)

Sir Kenneth James Dover, FRSE, FBA (11 March 1920 – 7 March 2010) was a distinguished British Classical scholar and academic. He was President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford from 1976 to 1986. In addition, he was President of the British Academy from 1978 to 1981, and Chancellor of the University of St Andrews from 1981 to 2005. He was the author of Greek Homosexuality (1978), a key text on the subject.


Kenneth Dover was born in London, the only child of Percy Dover and Dorothy Healey. He was educated at St Paul's School and Balliol College, Oxford. He served with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War and was mentioned in dispatches for his service in Italy.

After military service, Dover returned to Oxford and became Fellow and tutor at his old college in 1948. In 1955, Dover was appointed Professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews, and was twice Dean of the university's Faculty of Arts during his twenty-one years there.

He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1975. Dover received a knighthood two years later for services to Greek scholarship. In 1976, Dover became President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, a post he held for ten years. During this tenure Dover was engaged in a protracted dispute with the college Librarian and a Fellow in History, Trevor Henry Aston (1925[1]–1985), who suffered from manic depression. Aston's erratic behaviour exasperated Dover and in Marginal Comment, his autobiography, he admitted: "it was clear to me by now that Trevor and the college must somehow be separated. My problem was one which I feel compelled to define with brutal candour: how to kill him without getting into trouble...I had no qualms about causing the death of a fellow from whose nonexistence the college would benefit, but I balked at the prospect of misleading a coroner's jury...consulting a lawyer to see if [I] would be legally at risk if [I] ignored a suicide call." Dover willingly put pressure on Aston and consorted with his doctor to ignore colleagues' expressions of concern. Aston was found dead in his rooms on 17 October 1985 after an overdose.[2]

In 1978, he was elected to the presidency of the British Academy, of which he had been a Fellow since 1966, and served for a term of three years. During the 1980s, he also held positions at Cornell University and Stanford University.

Dover returned to St Andrews as the university's Chancellor in 1981. He was the first Chancellor in the University's history to be neither a peer nor an archbishop. Dover stepped down from the position after twenty-five years of service, effective 31 December 2005.


Dover's scholarly work focused especially on Thucydides, Aristophanes, and Plato, on the stylistics of Greek prose, and on Greek sexual morality. In addition to smaller editions of Thucydides books 6 and 7, he completed (with Anthony Andrewes) the fourth and fifth volumes of the Historical Commentary on Thucydides begun by A.W. Gomme and left unfinished at his death. (The complete work is often referred to as "Gomme-Andrewes-Dover.") His work on Aristophanes included two editions with commentary (on Clouds and Frogs) and a book on Aristophanic Comedy aimed at a more general readership.

His interest in stylistics stretches from his early study of Greek Word Order (1960) to his last major book, The Evolution of Greek Prose Style (1997). He had previously been responsible for supervising the second edition of J.D. Denniston's The Greek Particles (1950); though Dover is not named on the title page, his signed preface notes that he made various cuts, additions and changes. His series of Sather lectures on the corpus of speeches attributed to Lysias was important for its early application of stylometry to the study of Greek texts, as well as its agnostic conclusions. Since Athenian speechwriters adapted their style to the personality of their clients, Dover argued, it is difficult to make firm judgments about the authorship of speeches on the basis of style.

Dover's Greek Homosexuality (1978) marked a watershed in the study of classical Greek society, discussing topics such as pederasty and what he memorably called "intercrural copulation" in matter-of-fact terms. In particular, Dover made use of copious evidence from vase painting as a counterweight to the idealized picture of homoerotic relationships found in Plato.

Honorary degrees[edit]

Dover received honorary degrees from the Universities of Oxford, St Andrews, Birmingham, Bristol, London, Durham, Liverpool, and Oglethorpe.

He was also a foreign member of the American and the Royal Netherlands Academies of Arts and Sciences since 1979.[3]


Beyond his academic honours and pursuits, Dover was well known for his skill and devotion to bird watching and was considered one of Britain's finest birders.[4] As president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford in the 1970s and 80s he was impressive for being able to greet all Corpuscles by name. He achieved this by studying photographs and admitted to having occasional problems identifying new students when beards were in fashion.

Media appearances[edit]

  • Dover featured in an edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme "In the Psychiatrist's Chair", presented by Anthony Clare.
  • He featured in a BBC Television series "The Greeks", presented by Christopher Burstall.


Dover resided in St Andrews, Fife, where he and his family have had a home since around 1960. He married Audrey Latimer in March 1947; Lady Dover died in December 2009 after 62 years of marriage. Dover died on 7 March 2010, survived by a son and daughter.[5][6]

Selected works[edit]

  • Greek Word Order (1960)
  • Thucydides: Book VI (BCP Greek Texts) (1965)
  • Thucydides: Book VII (1965)
  • Aristophanes: Clouds (1968)
  • Lysias and the Corpus Lysiacum (1968)
  • Theocritus: Select Poems (1971)
  • Aristophanic Comedy (1972)
  • Thucydides, (Greece & Rome New Surveys, 1973)
  • Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (1974)
  • Greek Homosexuality (1978)
  • Plato: Symposium (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, 1980)
  • The Greeks (1980)
  • Ancient Greek Literature (1980)
  • Greek and the Greeks: Collected Papers; language, poetry, drama (1987)
  • The Greeks and their Legacy (1988)
  • Aristophanes: Frogs (1993)
  • Marginal Comment: a memoir, (1994) ISBN 0-7156-2630-2
  • The Evolution of Greek Prose Style (1997)


  1. ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
  2. ^ Quoted by John Darnton "A Scholar's Memoirs Raise Some Ghosts at Oxford", New York Times, 28 November 1994
  3. ^ "Sir Kenneth James Dover (1920 - 2010)" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Mair, Chris (9 March 2010). "Sir Kenneth Dover". The Scotsman. Retrieved 13 March 2010. 
  5. ^ rogueclassicist. "d.m. Sir Kenneth Dover". Rogueclassicism.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Gerard Koskovich, BAR newspaper (18 March 2010)

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Bernard Edward Fergusson, Brigadier The Lord Ballantrae
Chancellor of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
Menzies Campbell
Preceded by
President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Keith Thomas

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Dover — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

56 news items

New York Times

New York Times
Sat, 13 Mar 2010 17:26:10 -0800

Kenneth Dover, an eminent scholar of ancient Greek life, language and literature who became known for his willingness to break longstanding taboos in print, from his frank descriptions of sexual behavior (both the Greeks' and his own) to his baldly ...

WSOC Charlotte

WSOC Charlotte
Wed, 18 Sep 2013 07:43:53 -0700

18, 2013. Wrecker service owner, worker charged after drugs, guns found at business. Related. View Larger · Kenneth Dover and Robert Laney photo. Kenneth Dover and Robert Laney. Find us on Facebook · Connect with anchors, reporters on Twitter ...


Mon, 08 Mar 2010 10:26:39 -0800

But in 1994 he published an autobiography, Marginal Comment, which deliberately shattered the image. The book portrayed a spikily intelligent man who was slave to an urge to demonstrate his emancipation from bourgeois constraints. The reader is not ...

Bay Area Reporter

Bay Area Reporter
Wed, 17 Mar 2010 21:57:57 -0700

Sir Kenneth Dover, a distinguished British scholar of the classics, died on March 7 in Cupnar, Scotland, a few days short of his 90th birthday. No cause of death was announced. Dover's death was announced by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Mon, 12 Oct 2015 15:55:33 -0700

His next suggestion is classicist Kenneth Dover. 'He would be very astonished to get it, as he is a man of extreme modesty.' But once again, Berlin decides against, pointing out Dover was 'rather destroyed by the awful time he had over the Anthony ...

Jamaica Gleaner

Jamaica Gleaner
Tue, 15 Dec 2015 21:04:39 -0800

Finnis draws support for his reading of the Greek philosophers from the likes of the late pre-eminent Socratic scholar Gregory Vlastos and Sir Kenneth Dover, late distinguished Classical scholar, I think, precisely because they are, legally speaking ...

Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed
Mon, 20 Jul 2015 09:18:37 -0700

Two Christian colleges -- Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College -- announced Monday that they will change their hiring procedures to permit the hiring of faculty members who are in same-sex marriages. While such a policy would not be ...


Wed, 27 May 2015 12:17:37 -0700

Legendary rocker Bob Dylan was granted an honorary doctorate degree from Sir Kenneth Dover, Chancellor of the university in 2004. In 2006, Academy Award winning actress, producer and director Jodie Foster receives and honorary doctorate degree from ...

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