Born: March 5, 1924; Died: December 29, 2012.
Professor James Cameron, who has died aged 88, was one of Scotland's most distinguished and respected church historians. Almost all his working life was spent at St Andrews University where his long years of service on national and international academic bodies was described as having put St Andrews on the map.
The main focus of his interest was the Reformation. His 1972 edition of the First Book of Discipline, one of the principal documents of the Reformation in Scotland, was the outstanding work on the subject, praised as establishing a foundation for all future work on the Scottish Reformation. His study of the letters of two Reformation figures, John Johnston and Robert Howie, anticipated later scholarly interest in the history and theology of the late 16th century.
The breadth of Prof Cameron's interests ranged from medieval times to the history of the contemporary Scottish church. His depth of scholarship attracted a succession of post-graduate students to St Mary's College. Such was his impact on historical scholarship that after his retirement a book of essays was produced in his honour, Humanism and Reform: The Church in Europe, England and Scotland: 1400-1643, edited by Professor James Kirk and published by Oxford University Press. Last year an entire edition of the journal Theology in Scotland was devoted to Prof Cameron's work. His name is perpetuated in the James Cameron Fellowship which is awarded annually to a visiting scholar at St Andrews University who specialises in early modern religious history.
He was born in Methven in Fife and educated at Loch Nell and Oban High School. He graduated in arts and divinity at St Andrews, and then spent three years at Hartford Theological Seminary where he graduated PhD with the highest honours. On returning to Scotland he was ordained as assistant minister at Stirling's historic Kirk of the Holy Rude. A tribute to him in the General Assembly, when Prof Cameron retired, described that parish experience as reinforcing "an enviable approachability and genuine interest in others which has often helped since to draw out the best in both colleagues and students".
A former student, Professor Bruce Gordon of Yale Divinity School, described Prof Cameron as a brilliant and inspiring teacher and supervisor and a model scholar who embodied in the very best way the Scottish professoriate of the ancient universities.
In 1955 he was appointed lecturer in church history at the University of Aberdeen. The following year he was moved to be lecturer in the same subject at St Andrews and, in due course, became senior lecturer and then, in 1970, professor of ecclesiastical history. He was dean of the faculty of divinity from 1978 to 1983, and retired in 1989. He served for a year as president of the Ecclesiastical History Society.
He is survived by his wife Leslie, a medical doctor, and his son Euan, also a Church historian and professor of ecclesiastical history at Union Theological Seminary, New York.