Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Christopher Stead Obituary

I missed this one a couple of weeks ago in the Telegraph:

Canon Christopher Stead
Patristic scholar who wrote about the philosophy of the early Christian Church– and trains

I have only ever known him as a Patristics scholar, but the obituary carries the delightful additional information of his love of trains -- with a picture -- and this gem:
At 89 he published The Birth of the Steam Locomotive, a scholarly study reflecting a life-long interest.

When living at the 13th-century Black Hostelry, the former monastic infirmary at Ely, he used to maintain an O-gauge model layout in the attic, which had a branch line that went through a hole in the wall to deliver Christmas presents to his oldest son's bedroom.
Although he died on 28 May, The Times does not yet appear to have published an obituary. Today's Independent, though, has the following:

The Rev Professor Christopher Stead: Scholar of patristic thought who was the last Ely Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University
Lionel R. Wickham


Anonymous said...

It must be an English thing to put model trains in the upstairs (instead of in the basement): John Entwistle and Rod Stewart did the same.

Unknown said...

Thanks very much for posting this as I doubt I would have seen it anywhere else. Stead was a member of the Oxford group known as the Metaphysicals that gathered more or less around Austin Farrer to pursue philosophical theology in an inhospitable climate, and he wrote one of the most challenging books of theology I've tried to read, Divine Substance. (Perhaps I'll try to commemorate his passing by making another attempt to get all the way through it.) The preface to that book contains one of my favorite sentences about historical scholarship: "The reproduction of a blurred picture ought to be blurred." Delightful to learn about the book on trains. RIP.

Anonymous said...

I doubt whether many ex-Cambridge Patristics seminar read this, so must emphasise that it is impossible to express the gulf in gentlemanliness and godly scholarship between such as Professors Stead, Chadwick and [also recently decesased] Frend and their successors - with Lionel Wickham their perfect and equally urbane chairman. They really had something we do not - perhaps down to their experience of the war, or in a wider sense through having grown up in a wiser culture.
Almost half of the regular 1990s members were called Christopher (Stead, Sansbury, Brooke, and Shell) which made things a bit confusing. Reminds me of an introduction to Queen's College CU where the first 3 to introduce themselves were all 'Chris'. We decided it should be called the Chrisses Union instead.