North American Scholar

PEARSON, Lionel Ignatius Cusack

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  • Date of Birth: 1908-01-30
  • Born City: London
  • Born State/Country: England
  • Parents: Arthur Anselm & Ellen Cusack P.
  • Date of Death: 1988-09-18
  • Death City: Menlo Park
  • Death State/Country: CA
  • Married: Doris Elliott Wilson, 12 Dec. 1946.
  • Education:

    B.A. Oxford (Trinity Coll.), 1930; Ph.D. Yale, 1939.

  • Dissertation:

    "The Tradition of the Atthis" (Yale, 1939); printed in revised form as The Local Historians of Attica, APA Monogr. 11 (Philadelphia, 1942; reprt., Westport, CT, 1972; Chico, CA, 1981).

  • Professional Experience:

    Lctr. Gk. Glasgow (Scotland) U., 1930-1; Ictr. to asst. prof, class. Dalhousie U., 1932-8; instr. class. Yale, 1935-6; instr. Lat. NY State Coll. Tchrs., 1939-40; asst. prof, to prof, class. Stanford, 1940-73; Guggenheim fell. 1957-8; pres. PAPC, 1964; dir. APA, 1972; vis. prof. U. Sydney, 1968; Yale, 1974-5.

  • Publications:

    Early Ionian Historians (Oxford, 1939; reprt., Westport, CT, 1972, 1975); The Lost Histories of Alexander the Great, APA Monogr. 20 (New York, 1960); Popular Ethics in Ancient Greece (Stanford, CA, 1962); Plutarch on the Malice of Herodotus (trans.) in Plutarch Moralia, 11, LCL (Cambridge & London, 1965); Demosthenes. Six Private Speeches (Norman, OK, 1972; reprt. 1981, 1987); The Art of Demosthenes (Meisenheim, 1976; reprt. Chico, CA, 1981); Didymi in Demosthenem commenta, ed. with Susan Stephens (Stuttgart, 1983); Selected Papers of Lionel Pearson, ed. D. Lateiner & S. Stephens (Chico, CA, 1983); The Greek Historians of the West: Timaeus and His Predecessors, APA Monogr. 35 (Atlanta, 1987); Aristoxenus Elementa Rhythmica (Oxford, 1990).

  • Notes:

    Lionel Pearson was proud of having been Sir Ronald Syme's first pupil in Oxford and, though he spent nearly a half-century in California, he never lost that deep Englishness particularly evident in his profound knowledge of Greek and Latin, his absolute integrity, and his amiable eccentricity. He was remarkably generous toward his native and adopted countries, his profession, his university, and his students. After volunteer service in British Intelligence during World War II, he returned to spend his remaining career at Stanford. He was active in professional organizations, serving as president of the Philological Association of the Pacific Coast as well as director and financial trustee of the APA. He early saw the importance of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, serving as the first chair of the APA Advisory Committee in 1973-9. His generosity extended to anonymous gifts to Stanford for classics scholarships, as well as substantial donations to the APA including a major gift to allow American classics students to study in Britain. Pearson left his own scholarly mark in many areas of ancient Greek studies, but his most remarkable contribution is the distinguished series of monographs on Greek historiography. Over five decades, he elucidated those fragmentary and lost historians who played such an important role as sources for, and influences on, Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, and Plutarch. He moved from early Ionia and Attica to the historians of Alexander and finally to Timaeus and other chroniclers of Hellenistic Sicily. But if Pearson was a fine scholar of Greek historical writing, his abiding passions were Greek prose and music. While his love for Demosthenes gave rise to a monograph, a school text, and a Teubner edition of some Demosthenic scholia, it was his translations of London Times editorials (or his colleagues' departmental motions) into Demosthenic Greek that revealed both his English quirkiness and his linguistic facility. Pearson was an accomplished violinist; later in life he sometimes used his fiddle to demonstrate his idiosyncratic ideas on Greek music to his sometimes astonished, but always enlightened, students and colleagues. He was a devoted teacher, often teaching four or five classes in a term to ensure that the necessary courses were offered. (Along with his colleagues T. B. L. Webster and A. E. Raubitschek, Pearson was prepared to teach an "overload" to ease the burden on junior colleagues.) He was unsparing in pointing out errors of style or of judgment, but his criticism was never personal. Though he supervised relatively few dissertations, many graduate students were personally devoted to him, and two of them edited a selection of his papers in 1983.

  • Sources:

    APA Newsletter (Fall 1988) 114; NYTimes (21 Sept. 1988) D21; WhWh 1978-9:2526.

  • Author: Ronald Mellor