Alister McGrath was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 23 January 1953. He grew up in Downpatrick, Co. Down, where he attended Down High School. In 1966, he became a pupil at the Methodist College, Belfast, majoring in pure and applied mathematics, physics and chemistry. He was elected to an open major scholarship at Wadham College, Oxford University, to study chemistry from October 1971. He gained first class honours in chemistry in June 1975, and began research in molecular biophysics in the Oxford University Department of Biochemistry under the supervision of Professor Sir George K. Radda, FRS, who recently retired as chairman of the Medical Research Council. He was elected to an E.P.A. Cephalosporin Research Studentship at Linacre College, Oxford, for the academic year 1975-6, and to a Domus Senior Scholarship at Merton College, Oxford, for the period 1976-8. During these three years, he carried out scientific research alongside studying for the Oxford University Final Honour School of Theology. In December 1977, he was awarded an Oxford D.Phil. for his research in the natural sciences, and gained first class honours in Theology in June 1978.
McGrath then left Oxford to work at Cambridge University, where he held the Naden Studentship in Divinity at St John's College, Cambridge (1978-80). He also studied at the same time for ordination in the Church of England at Westcott House, Cambridge. In September 1980, he was ordained deacon, and began work as a curate at St Leonard's Parish Church, Wollaton, Nottingham, in the English east midlands. He was ordained priest at Southwell Minster in September 1981. In 1983, he was appointed lecturer in Christian doctrine and ethics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and a member of the Oxford University Faculty of Theology. McGrath spent the fall semester of 1990 as the Ezra Squire Tipple Visiting Professor of Historical Theology at the Theological School, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.
McGrath was elected University Research Lecturer in Theology at Oxford University in 1993, and also served as research professor of theology at Regent College, Vancouver, from 1993-9. In 1995, he was elected Principal of Wycliffe Hall, and in 1999, was awarded a personal chair in theology at Oxford University, with the title of "Professor of Historical Theology". He earned an Oxford Doctorate of Divinity in 2001 for his research on historical and systematic theology. In September 2004, he became the first Director of the newly-established Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In October 2006, he left Wycliffe Hall to take up a Senior Research Fellowship at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, to begin directing a major new research project on natural theology, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. This project includes the organization of a major international conference on Natural Theology to be held at Oxford University in 2008, and the giving of the prestigious 2009 Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2005.
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