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John Crow (British scholar)

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John William Crow (1904 - 29 October 1969) was a British academic of Elizabethan era, Jacobean era and Shakespearean drama.[1] He was regarded as a leading academic authority on Christopher Marlowe, the English playwright, poet and translator,[2] the works of Samuel Rowley, the 17th-century English dramatist and actor,[3] and the dramatist John Day.[4]

He is credited with formulating Crow's Law, a dictum of military intelligence.[5][6][7] Crow's Law is an epigram that is stated as 'Do not think what you want to think until you know what you ought to know.' Sometimes this is also stated as 'Do not believe what you want to believe until you know what you need to know'[8] [9] John Crow was a life long friend of Reginald Victor Jones, a British physicist and scientific military intelligence expert.[10]

Early life[edit]

John Crow's education started as a pupil at Charterhouse School, an English public school in Godalming, England. He later read medicine at Guy's Hospital, but was never a practising physician. He attended Worcester College, Oxford on an exhibition where he studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English. During his time at Oxford he jointly edited, alongside Peter Fleming, The Isis Magazine, the student magazine at the University of Oxford.

He worked at the Wellington College, Berkshire's Mission Church and Club in Walworth, south London, as a lay theologian.

Subsequently he was a journalist, writing for The Ring and several other American boxing journals as well as sports correspondent and subsequently editor of the Sunday Pictoral, a London Sunday newspaper.

Academic career[edit]

John Crow was declared medically unfit for active military service, so at the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the teaching faculty of Wellington College. He was part of the faculty from 1940 to 1945[11]

Subsequently, in the year 1945 he became a temporary lecturer at King's College, London. In 1962 he was promoted to the senior position of Reader.[12]

From 1968 John Crow was Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, until his death in October 1969.[13]


John Crow bequeathed an extensive collection of approximately 12,000 books, printed items, catalogues, correspondence and working papers. It was acquired via Molly Mahood, Professor of English at the University of Kent in the 1970s and formed the basis of the Templeman Library Special Collections.[14]


  1. "John Crow". John Crow Collections. University of Kent. 6 December 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  2. "Wellington College Archive - Teachers: English & History". Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  3. Rowley, S., Crow, John, & Wilson, Frank Percy. (1952). When you see me, you know me, etc. [A play. Reprinted from the edition of 1605.] (Prepared by the general editor [i.e. F. P. Wilson] and checked by John Crow.). ([Malone Society Reprints.]).
  4. Day, J., Crow, John, Greg, W. W., & WILSON, Frank Percy. (1950). Law Tricks, etc. [A type facsimile of the edition of 1608.] (Prepared by John Crow with assistance from W. W. Greg and the General Editor [i.e. F. P. Wilson].). ([Malone Society Reprints.])
  5. Jones, R.V. (1979). Most secret war : British scientific intelligence, 1939-1945 / by R. V. Jones. London: Coronet Books.
  6. Jones, R.V. (1990). Reflections on intelligence / R. V. Jones. London: Mandarin.
  7. Jones, R.V. (1974-04-20). Dr Jones's war - The man who could have lost us the war. (First of three audio programmes in which Professor R.V. Jones, lately of Aberdeen University, Scotland recalls the years when he was Assistant Director of Scientific Intelligence at the Air Ministry. Part of the Coles Tapes archive, British National Library).
  8. Hoverstadt, P. (2008). The Fractal Organisation : Creating sustainable organisations with the Viable System Model / Patrick Hoverstadt. Hoboken, N.J. : Chichester: Wiley ; John Wiley [distributor].
  9. "Obituary: Professor R. V. Jones". 19 December 1997. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  10. Jones, R.V. (1979). The Wizard War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945 / by R. V. Jones. Echo Point Books & Media
  11. "John Crow biography". 6 December 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  12. "John Crow biography". University of Kent. 6 December 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  13. "History of the English Department 1960s". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  14. "John Crow collection". University of Kent. 6 December 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2022.

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