Sir William Cockburn, 11th Baronet
Sir William Cockburn, 11th Baronet (2 June 1773 - 30 April 1858, Kelston
Kelston is a small village and civil parish in Somerset, north west of Bath, and east of Bristol, on the A431 road. It is situated just north of the River Avon, close to the Kelston and Saltford locks...

) was a Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 clergyman. He was Dean of York
Dean of York
The Dean of York is the member of the clergy who is responsible for the running of the York Minster cathedral.-11th–12th centuries:* 1093–c.1135: Hugh* c.1138–1143: William of Sainte-Barbe...

 (1823–1858) and was famously defended on a charge of simony
Simony is the act of paying for sacraments and consequently for holy offices or for positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus , who appears in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24...

 by his nephew Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet
Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet
Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn, 12th Baronet Q.C. was a Scottish lawyer, politician and judge. A notorious womaniser and socialite, as Lord Chief Justice he heard some of the leading causes célèbres of the 19th century.-Life:Cockburn was born in Alţâna, in what is now Romania and was then...

 in 1841.


Cockburn was the third son of Sir James Cockburn, 8th Baronet
Sir James Cockburn, 8th Baronet
Sir James Cockburn, 8th Baronet was Member of Parliament for Linlithgow Burghs from 1772 to 1784.-Family:He was a son of William Cockburn and his wife and cousin Frances Cockburn. His paternal grandparents were Sir Alexander Cockburn, 6th Baronet and his wife Mary Ancrum. His maternal grandfather...

 and his second wife Augusta Anne Ayscough
Augusta Anne Ayscough
Augusta Anne Ayscough was the second wife of Sir James Cockburn Cockburn had six children and many led notable lives. She and her first three sons are the subject of a painting in the National Gallery in London...

. His maternal grandfather was Francis Ayscough
Francis Ayscough
Francis Ayscough was a tutor to George III and Clerk of the Closet to his father Frederick, Prince of Wales and later Dean of Bristol Cathedral.-Biography:...

, Dean of Bristol. In 1853 Cockburn was made Baronet after the death of his brother, George
George Cockburn
Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Cockburn, 10th Baronet GCB was a British naval commander of the late 18th through the mid-19th centuries. He held important commands during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 and eventually rose to become Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord.-Naval...


In 1805, he married Elizabeth Peel (died 1826), sister of Sir Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

. She gave birth to three sons. Robert, the second son, died in 1825, a year before his mother, Elizabeth, died. George, the third son, died in 1830 and James, the eldest, died in 1846 at the age of 38. In 1830 Cockburn married Margaret Pearce, the daughter of a Colonel Pearce, but they had no children.

Cockburn was educated at Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School, originally The Hospital of King James and Thomas Sutton in Charterhouse, or more simply Charterhouse or House, is an English collegiate independent boarding school situated at Godalming in Surrey.Founded by Thomas Sutton in London in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian...

 and St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college's alumni include nine Nobel Prize winners, six Prime Ministers, three archbishops, at least two princes, and three Saints....

, graduating as twelfth wrangler in 1795 and receiving his MA
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 in 1798 and DD
Doctor of Divinity
Doctor of Divinity is an advanced academic degree in divinity. Historically, it identified one who had been licensed by a university to teach Christian theology or related religious subjects....

 in 1823. A fellow of St John's from 1796 to 1806, he was the first Christian Advocate
Christian Advocate (University of Cambridge)
Christian Advocate was a term used to refer to the University of Cambridge's Hulsean Lecturer until 1860. The Hulsean Preacher is charged with the annual task of delivering an address to answer objections against Christianity. The post was inaugurated in 1803 with William Cockburn as the first...

 of Cambridge University from 1803 to 1810. He was also a vocal scriptural geologist.

William Cockburn was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 1800 and as priest the following year. In 1822 he became the Dean of York
Dean of York
The Dean of York is the member of the clergy who is responsible for the running of the York Minster cathedral.-11th–12th centuries:* 1093–c.1135: Hugh* c.1138–1143: William of Sainte-Barbe...

, the chief place of authority and dignity in the Cathedral and a position he held until his death in 1858. From 1832 onwards he was also rector of Kelston, Somerset, near Bristol, where he generally spent half the year.

At age 84, Cockburn died in Kelston on April 30, 1858, after more than a year of growing infirmities.

Accused and acquitted of simony

In 1829 a fanatical Methodist set fire to the Minster causing considerable damage. As Dean, Cockburn was responsible to manage the repairs, which he did not do well. A second, accidental fire in 1840 again caused massive damage. Conflicts over the restoration work and Cockburn's unwise financial management finally reached a boiling point in 1841, when a York prebendary accused Cockburn of simony. Cockburn was foolishly frank, muddled his accounts, used repair funds for non-repair purposes, was intolerable to clear-thinking accountants and made too many independent decisions. Eventually, litigation involving the Archbishop of York led to a judgment deposing Cockburn from the Deanery. Cockburn appealed to the court of the Queen's Bench, which ruled "almost contemptuously" in favour of Cockburn, being particularly critical of the prosecuting attorney, Dr. Phillimore, Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford, for his ignorance of the applicable laws. The reputation of the Minster suffered badly from this affair. However, the whole city of York was pleased that Cockburn was still dean and tried to raise money to give him a token of their respect. When Cockburn discovered the plan, he insisted they not do it because it would foster unpleasant memories for everyone.

Scriptural geologist

As Dean of York and a scriptural geologist, he launched his criticisms against the old-earth geological theories of his day, and against what he perceived to be the anti-Christian tendencies of the British Association for the Advancement of Science
British Association for the Advancement of Science
frame|right|"The BA" logoThe British Association for the Advancement of Science or the British Science Association, formerly known as the BA, is a learned society with the object of promoting science, directing general attention to scientific matters, and facilitating interaction between...

 formed in 1831. He attended the first and fourteenth meetings of the BAAS held in York in 1831 and 1844. Also, he was one of the original vice-presidents of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and remained a member until at least 1844.

Cockburn wrote a number of short books and pamphlets addressing scientific and, particularly, geological issues. These included a response to the geological theory of Buckland's
William Buckland
The Very Rev. Dr William Buckland DD FRS was an English geologist, palaeontologist and Dean of Westminster, who wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur, which he named Megalosaurus...

 Bridgewater Treatise, a reply to F.J. Francis' old-earth theory and his attack on Cockburn, a criticism of Murchison
Roderick Murchison
Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st Baronet KCB DCL FRS FRSE FLS PRGS PBA MRIA was a Scottish geologist who first described and investigated the Silurian system.-Early life and work:...

's old-earth theory as expressed in his Silurian System, a paper Cockburn read to the geological section of the BAAS in 1844 which again criticised the pre-adamite geological theory, two letters to the editor of The Times criticizing old-earth geological theory and the recently published book on evolution, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation is a unique work of speculative natural history published anonymously in England in 1844. It brought together various ideas of stellar evolution with the progressive transmutation of species in an accessible narrative which tied together numerous...

, and finally a fuller statement of his view on the history of the earth in relation to geology and the Scriptures.

Objections to Old-Earth Theories

Cockburn raised questions and logical objections against various aspects of the old-earth theories. While he accepted geologic facts described by Murchison, Buckland and others, he challenged the logic of their deductions and attempted an alternative Flood based solution.

He found it difficult to conceive of the multiple cycles of submergence and elevation postulated to explain the carboniferous formations of alternating coal (from plants grown in situ), sandstone, limestone and clay to explain the death and burial of the Siberian mammoths. Another unsolved problem was the origin of the lime to make vast limestone formations on the base of a granite crust of a cooling earth. Most problematic for Cockburn was the idea of multiple destructions and creations as a result of divine intervention in the course of nature. He complained that few offered any explanation for the repeated origin of plant and animal life—it had happened. And worse, in Cockburn's mind, was that such a view of earth history impugned the nature of God as revealed in Scripture.

Modern critics

Historian Gillespie describes even "reasonably respectable" Cockburn's views as clerical "fulminations against science in general and all its works", and listed his works as among "clerical attacks on geology and uninformed attempts to frame theoretical systems reconciling the geological and scriptural records."
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.