One of six extremely successful sons of a Guildford clothworker, George Abbot might be better described as a politically gifted administrator than a great scholar. Master of Oxford’s University College, he had twice been vice-chancellor at Oxford when he was appointed to the Second Oxford Company, and served another term as vice-chancellor in 1605. (His brothers included a mayor of Guilford, the bishop of Salisbury, and a governor of the East India Company who became lord mayor of London.)
Abbot wrote numerous books, including a popular, frequently reprinted world geography and another volume that collected his many sermons on the Book of Jonah—which was not, as it happened, in the part of the Bible that his company was assigned to translate. During the King James Bible project, he was promoted rapidly and often within the church. In 1611, he was made archbishop of Canterbury, the highest religious position in the Church of England.
Aside from Abbot’s part in the King James Bible translation, his most enduring legacy is Abbot’s Hospital in Guildford, which he founded in 1619 as a home for the poor. The original buildings reflect the architecture of the Oxford campus, and the first master was another one of his brothers.