Theophilus Gale 1628-1679

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Theophilus GALE 1628-1679

Biographical Note

Born at Kingsteignton, Devon, son of Theophilus Gale, vicar there and a prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. BA Magdalen College, Oxford 1649, fellow 1650, MA 1652; logic lecturer at the College 1652, senior dean of arts 1658. Preacher at Winchester Cathedral, 1657. He was ejected from Oxford and Winchester in 1660 and in 1662 became tutor to the sons of Philip, 4th Baron Wharton. He spent time on the continent in the early 1660s and in 1666 established an academy for the children of dissenters at Newington Green in north London. He supported the independent ministry of John Rowe in Holborn and became co-pastor of that congregation in 1677. Gale's reputation was established by his published writings, including a number of devotional and doctrinal works issued during the last decade of his life, and particularly The court of the gentiles, published in four volumes between 1669 and 1678. This synthesises a great quantity of knowledge of classical philosophy and myth, and other religious traditions, around the theory that all of it derives ultimately from Jewish/Biblical revelation transmitted from Adam onwards. Theologically, Gale was a Calvinist influenced by the scholarship and thinking developed during the 17th century from various parts of the theological spectrum.


In his will, Gale directed much of his estate towards the support of nonconformist ministers; his books were left to a group of London pastors "to be disposed and employed by them ... for the maintenance education and benefit of such poor scholars or other charitable uses as they ... shall judge fit". In a later codicil to the will, this was changed to an instruction that his books be given to "the College in New England" (i.e. Harvard College), "except those philosophical books which are useful for students here". Around 1000 volumes went to Harvard College, significantly enhancing (and more or less doubling in size) the library there. Most of these books were lost in the fire at Harvard in 1764. Gale was also a donor to the Dodderidge library, because he was friends with John Berry, a local Barnstaple nonconformist. Probable donor of Exeter University shelfmarks: Dodderidge Library 1642/MAI (Mainonides) and Dodderidge 1669/GAL (his own book).