Douglas Alexander Kidd

DA Kidd
Douglas Kidd after his graduation from Cambridge University, June 1936. Archives, James Logie Memorial Collection.

When Douglas Alexander Kidd published his translation and commentary of Phaenomena in 1997, a reviewer noted that to create such an authoritative text would have required immensely painstaking scholarship and devotion. It is that same dedication to scholarship we have to thank for the creation of the Kidd Collection of classical texts.

Born in Scotland, Kidd developed an early fascination with the classics. He took his first degree at Aberdeen University, and then won a scholarship to St John’s College at Cambridge, where he graduated with a double first in Classics in 1936. Kidd married fellow Aberdeen graduate Margaret Barr in 1942. They had two daughters, Alison and Aileen, who donated their father’s rare books to the Logie Collection.

During World War II, Kidd served in the Royal Navy on the corvettes escorting convoys through the North Sea and on cruisers, namely the Bermuda, in the Mediterranean. On board, Douglas was known by the nickname ‘Prof’ and proved a popular accompanist at sing-a-longs on his harmonium.

After the war, Kidd resumed lecturing in Aberdeen, and by 1950 had been appointed foundation Professor of Classics at the University of the Gold Coast, (now Ghana). His daughter Alison notes that her father said “he enjoyed teaching there because the students wanted, and had a hunger, to learn.”

Then followed 21 years as a Professor of Classics at Canterbury, from 1957 until 1978. At Canterbury, Kidd was described as leading a ‘quiet revolution’ to enhance Classics, by introducing Classical literature and history in English translation alongside the traditional study of them in the original Greek or Latin. Outreach to other disciplines was also significant, and to this end Kidd taught a course on ancient astronomy to science students, using such books as those in this collection.

The Kidds and G Zanker
Douglas and Margaret Kidd, with Graham Zanker, celebrating the publication of DA Kidd's translation of Phaenomena, 1997. Archives, James Logie Memorial Collection.

Outside of academia, Kidd was an avid poet, writing verses in Latin and Greek. He was also a keen golfer, amateur astronomer and an accomplished linguist, conversant in Greek, Latin, Italian, German, French, Spanish and Swedish. On his death in 2001, a colleague said of him ‘‘I was struck not only by the power of his intellect, but also by the twinkle in his eye, his whimsical smile, and the kindness of his heart.’’

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