Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bateson, William Henry

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BATESON, WILLIAM HENRY (1812–1881), master of St. John's College, Cambridge, was born at Liverpool, 3 June 1812, and was a son of Richard Bateson, a merchant of that town. He was educated at Shrewsbury School under Dr. Samuel Butler, was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, 12 June 1829, and came into residence in 1831. He took his degree in 1836 as senior optime in mathematics, and third in the first class of the classical tripos. He was elected to a fellowship in February 1837, and became second master of a school at Leicester. He was afterwards elected head master, but never took up the office. He at first intended to go to the bar, but he took orders and returned to Cambridge. In 1840 he became chaplain of Horningsea, and a few years later vicar of Madingley. During this time he examined for the classical tripos, and took private pupils, one of whom was Charles Kingsley. In 1846 he was appointed senior bursar of his college, and applied himself to reform abuses which had crept into the administration of the revenues. In October 1848 he was elected public orator after a contest with Rowland Williams, of King's College. In 1850 he was made secretary of a commission to inquire into the state, discipline, studies, and revenues of the university and the colleges of Cambridge. In 1857 he was elected master of his college and married. In 1858 he became vice-chancellor. He took an active part in university business as a member of the council of the senate, to which in his later years he was secretary. He was generally regarded as the head of the liberal party in academical matters. He worked very hard as a member of the governing bodies of Shrewsbury, Rugby, and the Perse schools, and he exerted himself in promoting the higher education of women. In 1872 he was appointed, with many others, as a member of a commission to inquire into the property and income of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and in 1880 he succeeded Chief-Justice Cockburn as member of the executive commission of 1877. He gave valuable evidence before parliamentary committees on the admission of non-collegiate students to the university, and on the abolition of university tests. Within the walls of his own college he took a prominent share in framing the new statutes of 1881, and he developed its educational resources by unobtrusive generosity. He was distinguished by an acute judgment and a remarkably sweet and tender character. His patience and industry made him an excellent man of business. He died on 27 March 1881, from a sudden attack of spasmodic bronchitis.

[Eagle, No. lxv. 1881; Cambridge Review, 30 March 1881; private information.]

O. B.