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Francis Turner was the oldest son of Thomas Turner, Dean of Canterbury. He was born 23 August 1637. From Winchester College, where he was elected scholar in 1651, Francis proceeded to New College, Oxford, where he was admitted probationer fellow on 7 November 1655, and graduated B. A. on 14 April 1659 and M. A. on 14 January 1663.
Turner’s preferments were mainly due to the favour of the Duke of York, to whom he was chaplain. In February 1664/5 he was incorporated at Cambridge, and on 8 May 1666 he was admitted fellow commoner in St. John's College, Cambridge, to which the patronage of Peter Gunning, the Regius Professor of Divinity, attracted him.
On 11 April 1670 he succeeded Gunning as Master of St. John's, Cambridge; he was vice-chancellor in 1678, and resigned his mastership, "because of a faction," at Christmas 1679.