Thomas Barnes

(1747—1810) Presbyterian minister and reformer

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Thomas Barnes was born on 13 February 1747 in Warrington and died on 27 June 1810 in Manchester. He was the son of William Barnes, a distant relative of Bishop Richard Barnes. He was educated first in Wigan and later at Warrington Academy. His first, Unitarian, ministry was in Cockey Moor near Bolton (1768). In 1780 he became minister of the Cross Street chapel in Manchester. It was in Manchester that he made his greatest impact as thinker and educator. Together with Thomas Henry and Thomas Percival he founded the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, whose five volumes of memoirs (1785–98) contained some of the most enterprising philosophical and scientific speculations to be found in the eighteenth century outside London and Edinburgh. As a result of his work, he was largely responsible for the founding of The College of Arts and Sciences, whose educational principles were based on papers Barnes (and others) had read before the society. Unfortunately, the quality of the ideas embodied in the school's curriculum and ethos did not make for its success, and it failed to achieve its ambitions. Barnes was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 1784 by the University of Edinburgh. After this, he became the principal of Manchester College and retired in 1798. Even in retirement, he continued to be actively engaged in educational and eleemosynary undertakings.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.