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John Watson

Biography of John Watson

John Watson
John Watson

John Watson graduated MA from the University of Glasgow in 1872 and went onto become professor of moral philosophy at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada. He also received an LLD from the University of Glasgow in 1880 and was appointed Gifford Lecturer for the 1910–1912 session.

Born on 25 February 1847 in the parish of Gorbals, Glasgow, John Watson was the eldest of four children. After receiving education at the Free Church School in Kilmarnock, Watson matriculated at the University of Glasgow aged 19 to study for an arts degree. He had a highly successful academic career, winning prizes in moral philosophy and logic and rhetoric. His mentor in philosophy was Edward Caird, who recommended him for the position of Chair of Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1872. In 1880 he was awarded the degree of LLD by the University of Glasgow. His book ‘Kant and his English critics’ was published one year later. In 1889 Watson became professor of moral philosophy at Queen’s University Kingston until his retirement in 1924. Under his guidance, the philosophy department thrived and became an extremely popular discipline within the University. He became a charter member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1882, thus becoming the first philosopher in Canada to achieve an international reputation.

Despite being based in Canada, Watson maintained his links with his alma mater and was appointed Gifford Lecturer for the 1910–1912 session. His lecturers were on the subject of ‘The interpretation of religious experience’. A proponent of ‘rational religion’, Watson was strongly involved with liberalizing the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He was also an early advocate for the admission of women to university. Watson died in Kingston, Ontario, on 27 January 1939 and was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston.


John Watson
Born 25 February 1847.
Died 27 January 1939.
University Link: Graduate
GU Degrees: MA, 1872; LLD, 1880;
Occupation categories: professors
Record last updated: 20th Oct 2016

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