Cochrane, Charles Norris

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Cochrane, Charles Norris

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1889-1945

History

Professor Charles Norris Cochrane was born on August 21, 1889, the son of Charles Edward Cochrane, a physician and his wife Anne Charlotte Norris in Omemee Ontario. He graduated from University College with a B.A. in 1911, winning the McCaul Medal in Classics. After a two year fellowship at Corpus Christie College, Oxford, he returned to the University of Toronto as a lecturer in Classics in 1913. During the First World War, he was active in the C.O.T.C. and in 1918 went overseas with the 1st Tank Battalion. Upon returning in 1919, he received his M.A. and was appointed an assistant professor of Greek and Roman History. In 1929, he became a full professor and succeeded W.S. Milne as head of the Department of Greek and Roman History. In 1924, he was named Dean of Residence for University College. He held both positions until his death on November 23, 1945 at the age of 56. During the Second World War, he was on an advisory committee to the Minister of Justice that heard appeals of prisoners interned under the Defence of Canada Regulations. He was also active in evacuating the children of Oxford University faculty.
The Cochrane family housed two children from 1940-1942.

At the time of his death, Cochrane was considered an international authority on ancient Rome and Greece. His first book written in this field was Thucydides and the Science of History (Oxford 1929). It was recognized by colleagues “as shedding entirely new light on the work of the Greek historian”. Some ten years later in 1940, Cochrane received international acclaim for his book Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine. The importance in this work is summarized best in the words of his contemporary, Harold Innis, “His concern not only with the role of thought in Greco-Roman civilization, but also with its reflection in the work of its great historians, enabled him to make the first major Canadian contribution to the intellectual history of the West.” George Parkin Grant called Cochrane’s magnum opus, “the most important book ever written by a Canadian.” In February 2004, it was republished and a recent reviewer noted “Christianity and Classical Culture has survived the test of time to remain a pillar of philosophical, religious, and cultural analysis." --John Taylor, The Midwest Book Review, February 2004. In 1946, the Royal Society of Canada posthumously awarded Cochrane the Lorne Pierce Medal for original contribution to literature.

An excerpt below from the brief biography appearing in The Canadian Encyclopedia (2004) written by Arthur Kroker captures the essence of Cochrane’s ideas and his place among Canadian intellectual thinkers
"A classical historian by profession, but a deeply tragic thinker by heart, Cochrane devoted his life to an intellectual meditation on the failure of reason to secure a "permanent and enduring" basis for civilization. He was haunted by the insight that in the absence of a principle of "creative integration," Western civilization was doomed to oscillate between idealism (animal faith) and naturalism (the detritus of skepticism)... An unappreciated thinker, especially in his native Canada, Cochrane must be considered among the leading 20th-century philosophers of civilization."

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