Augustinian theologian, scientist, and poet (also spelled Neckam; nicknamed Nequam, meaning worthless); b. Sept. 13, 1157, St. Alban's, Herefordshire, England; d. March 31, 1217, Kempsey, Worcestershire. He studied arts at Paris, probably between 1175 and 1182, and taught at Dunstable (c. 1182) and St. Alban's (c. 1183–90). Having studied theology at Oxford between 1190 and 1197, he entered the Order of the Augustinian Canons about 1200. He acted as papal judge delegate (1203 and 1205), and became abbot of Cirencester in 1213. His works include De nominibus utensilium; Novus Aesopus and Novus Avianus; Super Marcianum de nuptilis Mercurii et Philosophiae; Repertorium vocabulorum Bibliae; De naturis rerum libri duo (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 34:1–354); Commentarius in Ecclesiastem (cf. Stegmüller 2:1172); Commentarius in Canticum; Corrogationes novi Promethei, or Summa super Bibliam; De laudibus divinae sapientiae (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 34:357–503); Glossae in Psalterium; Commentarius in Parabolas Salomonis; Speculum speculationum; Quaestiones de rebus theologicis; Sacerdos ad altare ; as well as some sermons. Alexander, as a typical exponent of encyclopedic learning in medieval England, influenced later English thought, particularly that of the poet, Edmund spenser [cf. Studies in Philology 22 (1925) 222–225]. His works display considerable erudition, including knowledge of the natural sciences. His prestige may be judged from the fact that his change of opinion in favor of the celebration of the Virgin Mary's conception [English Historical Review 47 (1932) 260–268] was influential in spreading that feast in England [cf. Franziskanische Studien 39 (1957) 115, 179].
Bibliography: f. m. powicke, "Alexander of S. Albans," Essays in History Presented to Reginald Lane Poole (London 1927) 246–260. h. kantorowicz, "A Medieval Grammarian on the Sources of Law," Tijdschrift voor rechtsgeschiedenis 15 (1937) 25–47. p. w. damon, "A Note on the Neckham Canon," Speculum 32 (1957) 99–102. f. stegmÜller, Repertorium biblicum medii aevi 2:1158–72. Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 1:308. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 2:1342–43.