Mercer, Samuel Alfred Browne

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Mercer, Samuel Alfred Browne

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1879-1969

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Samuel Alfred Browne Mercer, BD, MA, PhD, DLitt, LlD, DD, FRGS (Ang.), was an Episcopalian minister who became Canada’s foremost Egyptologist during his lengthy career at the University of Toronto. He was a distinguished orientalist and authority on Egyptian hieroglyphics. Mercer was born in 1879 in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, son of Samuel and Elizabeth Browne Mercer. His early education was in St John’s and later at Harvard University. From 1922 to 1923, Dr Mercer was Dean of Bexley Hall at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio. On 1 October 1923, he was appointed to University of Toronto’s Trinity College as Dean and Professor of Divinity and remained there from 1924 to his retirement as Professor of Semitic Languages and Egyptology. In 1946 he retired to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he devoted himself to the first translation and commentary of the ancient Pyramid Texts. It was published in 1952.

An active scholar, he held 12 degrees from various universities, published 29 books in his field, and read more than 50 ancient and modern languages. During one of his many trips to the Middle East and Africa, he was present at the opening of the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922. On another field trip to Ethiopia, he discovered a manuscript of the Book of Ecclesiastes that was 200 years older than any previously known.

Mercer married Genevieve, daughter of John Lewis Magee, on 15 August 1910. He died in Toronto on 10 January 1969 at the age of 89, leaving his daughter, Mrs Donald (Harriet) Briggs of Burbank, California, and two sisters, Miss Ethel Mercer and Mrs Ross (Charlotte) Spaulding, both of Toronto.

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