George Johnson (priest)


George Henry Sacheverell Johnson FRS (1808 – 5 November 1881) was a British clergyman and academic who was Dean of Wells and a professor at the University of Oxford.

Life and career


Johnson studied at The Queen's College, Oxford, winning a college scholarship, the Ireland scholarship and the university mathematics scholarship. He matriculated there in 1825, aged 17, graduating B.A. in 1829 with a first-class degree, and M.A. in 1833. He was a Fellow of the college from 1829 to 1855.[1][2]

Johnson was ordained into the Church of England in 1834 and elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1838. He was appointed Savilian Professor of Astronomy in 1839, although his lack of astronomical knowledge led to the separation of the chair from the post of Radcliffe Observer. In 1842, he changed professorships to become White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, a post he held for three years. He advocated reform of Oxford and its colleges, an unpopular stance which he believed scuppered his chances of becoming Provost (head) of his college, although he was appointed as a commissioner under the Oxford University Act 1854. In 1854, Johnson was appointed Dean of Wells, where his time was marred by a dispute about his unpopular decision to hold a parish position in Wells in addition to the deanery to supplement his income. He published Optical Investigations (1835), a book of sermons in 1857 and Science and Natural Religion: a Sermon (which went to two editions).[1]

In 1836 he served as one of two external examiners for the final examination for the degree of B.A. at the University of Durham. This makes him one of the first two external examiners to serve in the UK.[3][4]


  1. ^ a b Curthoys, M. C. "Johnson, George Henry Sacheverell (1808–1881)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14881. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Foster, Joseph (1888–1892). "Johnson, George Henry Sacheverell" . Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886. Oxford: Parker and Co – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ Matthew Andrews. Universities in the Age of Reform, 1800–1870: Durham, London and King's College. Springer. pp. 152–153. ISBN 9783319767260.
  4. ^ Durham University Calendar 1842. p. 45.
Church of England titles
Preceded by Dean of Wells
Succeeded by