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History of UCL Philosophy

From the foundation of UCL, philosophy was intended to play an important part in the curriculum.

The 'London University' (as it was then called) opened its doors in October 1828. Writing a century later, George Dawes Hicks explained the original Council's intentions concerning philosophy:

Two significant Statements of what it was proposed to undertake were issued by the Council of the new institution, the first in 1827 and the second in 1828. According to the first, there were to be two philosophical Chairs—one of Logic and the Philosophy of the Human Mind, and one of Moral and Political Philosophy. According to the Second Statement, the one Chair would have for its province "that department of mental phenomena in which all that relates to knowledge or the acquisition and formation of ideas is concerned;" while the other Chair would have for its province "that department of the mental phenomena in which all that relates to action is concerned."

Although Bentham's physical presence remains with us, Bentham was never a professor at UCL. The first Chair was filled in 1830, by John Hoppus; only in 1904 would a second Chair be filled.

In 1867, Hoppus was succeeded by George Croom Robertson. In 1876, Croom Robertson's founded the journal MIND, the first English-language philosophy journal. MIND is consistently ranked as one of the best philosophy journals in the world, and it remains associated with UCL today: four of its editors are part of the UCL department.

For more on the history of philosophy at UCL:

A timeline of Philosophy at UCL

UCL Philosophy Timeline

You can also download the timeline as a scalable pdf.

Titular chairs in philosophy

  • 1830-1866 John Hoppus
  • 1867-1892 George Croom Robertson [Grote]
  • 1892-1903 James Sully [Grote]
  • 1903-1911 Carveth Read [Grote]
  • 1904-1928 George Dawes Hicks
  • 1911-1928 Charles Spearman [Grote]
  • 1929-1944 John Macmurray [Grote]
  • 1944-1959 AJ Ayer [Grote]
  • 1960-1963 Stuart Hampshire [Grote]
  • 1963-1982 Richard Wollheim [Grote]
  • 1988-1998 Ted Honderich [Grote]
  • 1994-2000 Paul Horwich
  • 1998-2001 Malcolm Budd [Grote]
  • 2001-2015 Paul Snowdon [Grote]
  • 2005-2006 Quassim Cassam
  • 2007-2015 Christopher Peacocke [Wollheim]
  • 2018-present John Hyman [Grote]
  • 2020-present Lucy O'Brien [Wollheim]