H. J. R. Murray
|Born||Harold James Ruthven Murray|
24 June 1868
Peckham, London, England
|Died||16 May 1955 (aged 86)|
|Relatives||James Murray (father)|
Harold James Ruthven Murray (24 June 1868 – 16 May 1955) was a British educationalist, inspector of schools, and prominent chess historian. His book, A History of Chess, is widely regarded as the most authoritative and comprehensive history of the game.
Murray, the eldest of eleven children, was born near Peckham Rye in Peckham, London. The son of Sir James Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, he attended school at Mill Hill and, in his spare time, helped his father produce the first edition of the OED. By the time Harold had finished school and was preparing to leave for university, he had produced over 27,000 quotations that later appeared in the OED.
He won a place at Balliol College, Oxford where in 1890 he graduated with a first class degree in Mathematics. He became an assistant master at Queen's College, Taunton where he learned to play chess. Later he was assistant master at Carlisle Grammar School, and in 1896 became headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School in Lancashire. On 4 January 1897, he married Kate Maitland Crosthwaite. In 1901, he was appointed a school inspector, and in 1928 he became a member of the Board of Education.
Murray was a champion of the left-handed, defending children against the attempts of schools to make them conform by using their right hands.
In 1897, Murray was encouraged by Baron von der Lasa (who had just completed his book on the history of European chess) to research the history of chess. Murray gained access to the largest chess library in the world, that of John G. White of Cleveland, Ohio, and also used the collection of J. W. Rimington Wilson in England. The White collection contained some Arabic manuscripts, so Murray learned Arabic, and German. The research took him 13 years, during which time he contributed articles on aspects of chess history to the British Chess Magazine and the Deutsches Wochenschach. In 1913 he published A History of Chess, proposing the theory that chess originated in India. This remains the most widely accepted theory. (See Origins of chess.)
In 1952 Murray published A History of Board Games other than Chess. Although A History of Chess was recognised as the standard reference on the subject, its scholarly approach and great length (900 pages) made it inaccessible to most chess players. Murray began a shorter work on chess history written in a more popular style; it remained unfinished at his death and was completed by B. Goulding Brown and Harry Golombek and published in 1963 as A Short History of Chess.
Murray was the father of educationalist and biographer K. M. Elisabeth Murray and the archaeologist Kenneth Murray.