Doctor of Philosophy degrees (PhD) were introduced to the UK from around 1917. At the University of Glasgow, the first Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree was awarded in 1895, the abbreviation being changed to PhD in 1921. It comes as no surprise to find out that shortly thereafter, in 1924, the University’s first international student gained a PhD.
There were two international students who graduated PhD in 1924, but who was the first?
Tomás de la Barra Fontecilla,born in Valparaíso, Chile, was an advocate and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chile, Santiago. He was posted to Glasgow in 1918 as Consul General of Chile, enrolling at the University as a research student of Economics in 1920, graduating PhD in 1924 with his doctoral thesis Some aspects of industrial organization. Reports were published noting that de la Barra was “the first foreigner to secure the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Glasgow university” (the Meriden Daily Journal, Connecticut, 5 April 1927), this news however, was secondary to the international news that “Glasgow has girl consul” – in reference to his daughter, Olga, who was appointed Vice-Consul of Chile at Glasgow from 1927, an appointment at a time when posts in the Diplomatic or Consular Services of the UK were reserved for men.
Ivan Lorin George Sutherland, born in Masterton, New Zealand, graduated PhD in 1924 with the Doctoral Thesis entitled A Critical Examination of Some Tendencies in Psychology in Relation to the Theory of Human Conduct. He lectured in Psychology and Philosophy at Victoria University College, Wellington, and was later appointed Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. He became a leading expert on the Maori people, publishing The Maori Situation (Wellington, New Zealand: Harry H Tombs Ltd, 1935) and editing The Maori People Today (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1940).
So who was the first to graduate PhD? A look in the PhD Graduation Albums (GUAS ref: R1/11/1, 1895-1965) gave us their official dates of graduation…just click the links to their biographies to find out whether the newspapers were right!