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The Life and Times of J. Neville Keynes

A Beacon in the Tempest

Phyllis Deane

This fascinating biography of an economist who was also a logician and administrator, is based mainly upon his virtually continuous diary. The diary provides an intimate commentary on the academic developments and conflicts in which he was closely involved as well as on his life as undergraduate, bachelor and family man.
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Chapter 5: Career of a moral scientist

Phyllis Deane


1 FIRST UNIVERSITY LECTURER IN MORAL SCIENCES When he stepped out of his Pembroke fellowship in 1882, Neville had, at the age of 30, effectively hitched his future career to the new pattern of opportunities implicit in a redistribution of finance and influence from the colleges to the university. At that stage he saw himself primarily as a university teacher. Although, a year ago, he had coveted the part-time post of Pembroke’s treasurer (which would have carried a fellowship for as long as he held it), running the finances of such a small college was not of itself a particularly attractive prospect. So, after resigning himself to the fact that the Pembroke fellows were unlikely to vote a young nonconformist moralist (however popular personally) into such a prominent position within the college, he looked to the university for income-earning opportunities. He had already applied for, and got, in March 1881, the post of assistant secretary to the Local Examinations Syndicate; and he now knew not only that the objectives and organizational challenges associated with this fast-growing university department suited his temperament, but also that his administrative talents were evidently superior to those of the then secretary to the Syndicate.1 Accordingly, he set his sights on succeeding the latter as the Syndicate’s principal officer. Meanwhile, as far as his long-term career objectives were concerned, the most important feature of the ‘general academic reorganization’2 unleashed by the 1882 revision of statutes lay in the revolution it was designed to achieve...

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