Harold James Ruthven Murray

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Harold James Ruthven Murray (June 24, 1868 - May 16, 1955) born in Peckham Rye, London, son of James Murray (editor of the Oxford English Dictionary), the eldest of eleven children, was most prominent as a chess historian. He was also a headmaster and school inspector and later a governmental advisor on education.

Harold attended school at Mill Hill and during 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 been responsible for 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 and later at Carlisle Grammar School. In 1896 he became headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School in Lancashire.

On January 4, 1897 he married Miss Kate Maitland Crosthwaite.

In 1901 he was appointed a school inspector and in 1928 he became a member of the board of education.

In 1897 he was encouraged by Baron von der Lasa (who had just completed his book on the history of European chess) to research into the further past of chess. In order to do this he learnt Arabic (in addition to his native English and German) and examined many historical chess documents. In 1913 his research resulted in his most significant work a History of Chess, a work which for decades was regarded as a standard reference, supporting the theory that chess originated in India. But this theory has recently undergone some revision. See Origins of chess.

Other works include:

  • History of Board Games other than Chess. (1952)
  • A Shorter History of Chess (1956, published after his death).
  • The Dilaram Arrangement (unpublished)
  • The Dilaram position in European Chess (unpublished)
  • A History of Draughts (unpublished)
  • A History of Heyshott (unpublished)
  • The Early History of the Knight's Tour (unpublished)
  • The Knight's Problem (unpublished)
  • The Classification of Knight's Tours. (unpublished)

Most of his unpublished works are now held in the library of Oxford University.

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