CFHS code : AS86

Parish : All Saints

Inscription : PHILLIP THOMAS MAIN Senior Fellow of St Johns College d May 5 1899

Monument : Cruciform Coped stone

Above information amended from Cambridge Family History Society Survey


The cruciform coped stone is in the north of the parish by the wall that borders Norfolk Terrace. It is six rows from the corner of the west path where it becomes the north path and six rows from the west wall. As it is completely hidden under brambles we have not been able to photograph it.


The burial register was used to complete this inscription

PHILLIP THOMAS MAIN Senior Fellow of St Johns College d May 5 1899

Phillip Thomas Main (22 April 1840 – 5 May 1899)

Phillip was the son of Rev. Robert and Mary (née Kelland) Main and was born in Greenwich, London.  He was baptised  on 8 May 1840 at St. Alphege Church, Greenwich. His father was a noted astronomer and was first assistant at the Royal Observatory (1835-1860) and then Radcliffe observer at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford (1860-1878). Two of his Uncles were also noted mathematicians – Philip Kelland went to Queen’s College and then was Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh, Thomas Main went to St. John’s and was 1st in the Mathematical tripos in 1838 and then Professor at the Royal Naval College.  So Phillip came from a very academic family.

He went to Merchant Taylors’ School and then up to St John’s College in July 1858.  He was awarded a Bell Scholarship when he entered, and was awarded a B.A. in 1862 (6th Wrangler) and an M.A. in 1865. Phillip was also honorary awarded a degree by Oxford University in June 1865 under ‘comitatis causa’ where the degree from another University was also recognised by Oxford.  He was a fellow of St John’s College from 1863-1899, Director of the Chemical Laboratory (1869-1899) and lecturer in Chemistry at Girton College (1873-1899). He also published text books and works relating to Astronomy, some of which built on his father’s work. However Phillip was most known for his work in Chemistry, where he was a lecturer, examiner and active member of the Natural Science Board of the University.   He lived in St. John’s College throughout his life, and died in his rooms aged 59 years old.

An obituary published in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal said ‘his high moral and social qualities secured him many friends in the University where his loss will be deeply felt’.  It noted that Phillip was an expert in physical chemistry which was possible due to ‘his through knowledge of mathematics and physical methods of investigation and his acute philosophical turn of mind’.  He did not publish as many books and works as contemporaries due to ‘weak health’.  His most widely known publication was ‘Reports of Experimental Knowledge of the Properties of Matter’ (1886), which was said to be the ‘standard authority in regard to questions of chemical  physics’.



ACAD – A Cambridge University Alumni Database


by Claire Martinsen

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Phillip Thomas Main
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