James George Frazer

Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Liverpool

The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead

In his first series of lectures, given at St Andrews, Frazer explores the conception of immortality as held by ‘primitive’ communities. A survey of traditions from all over the world, he sheds light on the development of mystic beliefs into purer forms of religion. 

The Worship of Nature

In his second series, given at Edinburgh, Frazer delves into the history of sky, earth, and sun worship. He argues that throughout history, religious people have worshiped similar gods because they perceive similar natural phenomena. 


James George Frazer was born on 1 January 1854 in Glasgow. A classical philosopher and anthropologist, Frazer was a founder of contemporary anthropology and influenced the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. In 1878, he wrote the classical tripos exam at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was elected to a college fellowship shortly after, a post he held for the rest of his life. In 1908, he was appointed as the first Professor of Social Anthropology in Britain at the University of Liverpool but returned to Cambridge after one year. 

Knighted in 1914, he was inducted into the Royal Society in 1920. An original Fellow of the British Academy, his admirers established the Sir James George Frazer Memorial Lectureship in Social Anthropology. His major publications include Totemism (1887), The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion (1890), Adonis, Attis, Osiris: Studies in the History of Oriental Religion (1906), Psyche’s Task: A Discourse Concerning the Influence of Superstition on the Growth of Institutions (1909), The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings (1911), and Aftermath: A Supplement to the ‘Golden Bough’ (1936).