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Ernest William Barnes
Born 1 April 1874(1874-04-01)
Birmingham, England
Died 29 November 1953 (aged 79)
Sussex, England
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Mathematician and Clergyman
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor W. W. Rouse Ball
Doctoral students J. E. Littlewood
Known for Work on the gamma function

Ernest William Barnes (1 April 1874 – 29 November 1953) was an English mathematician and scientist who later became a theologian and churchman.

He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge.[1] He was Master of the Temple from 1915 to 1919. He was made Bishop of Birmingham in 1924, the only bishop appointed during Ramsay MacDonald's first term in office. His modernist views, in particular objection to Reservation, led to conflict with the Anglo-Catholics in his diocese [2].


Birth and education

Ernest William Barnes was the eldest of four sons of John Starkie Barnes and Jane Elizabeth Kerry, both elementary school head-teachers. In 1883 Barnes' father was appointed Inspector of Schools in Birmingham, a position that he occupied throughout the rest of his working life. Barnes was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and in 1893 went up to Cambridge as a Scholar of Trinity College. He was bracketed Second Wrangler in 1896 and was placed in the first division of the first class in Part II of the Mathematical Tripos in 1897. In the following year he was awarded the first Smith's Prize and was duly elected to a Trinity Fellowship. During his time as a Fellow he served on the committee of Cambridge University Liberal Club from 1899 to 1901.[3] He was appointed a lecturer in mathematics in 1902, junior dean in 1906-08 and a tutor in 1908. He graduated Sc.D. of the University of Cambridge in 1907 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1909.

Ecclesiastical career

In the same year he became a lecturer in mathematics, Barnes was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London and from 1906 to 1908 was Junior Dean of Trinity. In 1915, Barnes left Cambridge, and his career as a professional mathematician, upon his appointment as Master of the Temple in London. This was followed in 1918 by a Canonry of Westminster Abbey and finally, in 1924, by consecration to the Bishopric of Birmingham, an office he held until April 1953, when he had to retire on account of ill-health. He died at his home in Sussex at the age of 79, survived by his wife and two sons. A broze memorial tablet to him, as the third bishop of Birmingham, was erected in South aisle of Birmingham Cathedral, near where his ashes, together with those of his wife, are placed under the pavement marked by a slab with the initials 'EWB'.


Barnes' episcopate was marked by a series of controversies stemming from his outspoken views and unorthodox religious beliefs.[4] In 1940, he lost a libel case in which he had attacked the Cement Makers' Federation for allegedly holding up the supply of cement, for their own profit at a time of great national need, in the construction of air-raid shelters.[5] Undaunted by this set-back, Barnes returned to his accusations on the cement ring in a speech he delivered in the House of Lords the following year. As a theological author, Barnes' book The Rise of Christianity (1947) aroused such fierce opposition and criticism from more orthodox members of the Church that it was strongly suggested he should renounce his episcopal office, which Barnes refused to do.


He was an uncompromising pacifist [6], and spoke out against British participation in the Second World War. He also expressed eugenic views [7].

See also

Further reading

  • Obituary in The Times, Monday, Nov 30, 1953; pg. 10; Issue 52792; col D: "Dr. E. W. Barnes The Christian Faith And Science".


  1. ^ Barnes, Ernest William in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. ^ The Times, Thursday, Dec 18, 1924; pg. 15; Issue 43838; col F: "Dr. Barnes And His Critics. An Expression Of Confidence". Letter of support, to the Editor, signed by W. R. INGE ; E. A. BURROUGHS; W. L. PAIGE COX; J. H. THORPE; R. H. CHARLES; H. LOWTHER CLARKE; V. F. STORR,; T. GUY ROGERS; R. H. KENNETT,; J. F. BETHUNE-BAKER,.
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Times, Monday, Aug 31, 1925; pg. 7; Issue 44054; col D: "Magical Views Of The Eucharist. Dr. Barnes At Oxford." (Conference of Modern Churchmen.
  5. ^ The Times, Saturday, May 10, 1941; pg. 2; Issue 48922; col F: "High Court Of Justice King's Bench Division, Slander Action Against A Bishop: £1,600 Awarded, Alpha Cement, Limited, And Others v. Bishop Of Birmingham"
  6. ^ In 1936, his sermon Blessed are the peacemakers was published as a pamphlet by the Council of Christian Pacifist Groups, 1936 (Copy in British Library)
  7. ^ The Times, Tuesday, May 22, 1951; pg. 2; Issue 52007; col C: "Menace Of Excessive Populations Dr. Barnes On Inferior Human Strains" - report of the Cavendish lecture, 1951, to the Medico-chirurical Society of West London.


External links



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