Samuel Alexander’s major presence at the University of Manchester gave shape to his lasting legacy. This was permanently instated in 2007, when the arts building, once known as Lime Grove, was renamed the Samuel Alexander Building.
Born in Sydney in 1859, he excelled in his academic life in Melbourne and consequently was granted a scholarship at Balliol College in Oxford in 1877. It was not until 1893 he moved to Manchester and became the Chair of Philosophy. He taught at our University for thirty years and remained here until his death in 1938.
During his time at Manchester he broke away from the dominant form of idealism of the time and developed a new philosophical realism. Combining philosophical ideas with common sense, he became one of the greatest speculative thinkers of his time. His magnum opus was Space, Time and Dietypublished in 1920, which explained the world in terms of creative tendencies that are composed of space and time. His papers and correspondence are held at John Rylands Library and remain an extremely important archive.
Dr. Anthony Fisher, a current philosopher at our University is an expert on Alexander. Dr.Fisher believes that Alexander’s work deserves more attention and is determined to show this through his research. He regards Alexander’s ideals with great respect and thinks Alexander’s actions were an embodiment of a progressive University in a city that was at the heart of the industrial revolution.
Alexander was also deeply involved in the life of the city. He played a key role in making the University an independent institution and shaping it into the University that we know today. He had an appreciative understanding for women and was a firm believer in equality. This allowed him to become a strong campaigner for women’s rights. His commitment to equality and fairness allowed him to procure better facilities for women by setting up a women’s only residence hall: Ashburne Hall on Fallowfield campus. He also campaigned for rights outside the University. In 1908, he inspired hundreds of Manchester women by speaking at a Women’s Suffrage march.
He was honored by the University for his work and was presented with his bust by Jacob Epstein in 1925. It was placed in the center hall of the arts building where it remains today. He was a dominant figure in philosophy, an inspiring teacher and an ardent feminist. His life will continue to be recognized by his permanent imprint on our University.