Category Archives: Glasgow Firsts

This section will highlight some of the University of Glasgow’s international firsts. There are many more still to be uncovered.

Glasgow’s first Malaysian student

To mark Malaysian Independence Day, Hari Merdeka, we’ve got a Glasgow First post.

The University of Glasgow welcomed its first Malaysia student in 1911. Lee Hoe Thye was from Penang, the Straits Settlement, present day Malaysia, son of Yewcheong Thye, a mining engineer.

Lee Hoe Thye, Engineering and Naval Architecture Class 1913–1914 (ACCN173/11/7/1a)

He enrolled at the University in 1911, aged 23, to study Engineering for two years.

Educated at the Penang Free School and at Aberdeen Grammar School, Thye undertook a five-year apprenticeship in 1906 with William McKinnon and Company Ltd, Aberdeen while also attending Robert Gordon’s Technical College.

Thye continued his studies for a further year at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1914 he was employed as a draughtsman with Messrs. Glenfield and Kennedy Ltd, Kilmarnock.

In October 1915, Thye returned to the Federated Malay States, where he was a supervising engineer to Chan Sow Lin and Co, Kuala Lumpur.

He was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1910, and an Associate Member in 1916, but died in December 1920.


Leave a comment

Filed under Glasgow Firsts, South East Asia

First international professor & pioneering geologist

Henry Darwin Rogers (UP1/17/1)

Henry Darwin Rogers (UP1/17/1)

Philadelphia-born Henry Darwin Rogers (1808-1868) was perhaps the first international (overseas) professor employed at the University of Glasgow.

He directed geological surveys of New Jersey in 1835 and Pennsylvania in 1836, becoming a freelance geologist and moved to Scotland in 1855.  He was appointed to the Chair of Natural History from 1857, a position he held until his death in 1866. Rogers was also responsible for the care of the Hunterian Museum. His brother, William Barton Rogers, with whom he had founded two high schools in the US,  was founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Leave a comment

Filed under Glasgow Firsts, North America

The other Italian job

Following on from Olivia’s ‘Italian Job’ blog series, we really should mention the ‘Italian Job’ that laid the foundations of the University back in the fifteenth-century.

At  the request of James II, William Turnbull, Bishop of the Diocese of Glasgow, obtained a Bull from Pope Nicholas V in 1451 to establish a university in Glasgow. The bull erected a new studium generale for the teaching of “theology, canon and civil law, as well as the arts and any other lawful faculty”. The Constitution of the University was made the same as that of the University of Bologna, considered to be the oldest university in the Western world dating back to around 1088.  The new University’s doctors, masters, readers and students were also granted all the privileges, honours and immunities enjoyed by their counterparts at Bologna.

Pope Nicholas V was also a product of the University of Bologna. Originally known as Thomas of Sarzana,  he had been Bishop of Bologna before taking on the name of Nicholas out of gratitude to his benefactor Cardinal Nicholas Albergati who maintained him at the University of Bologna, when he was raised to the pontificate on 6 March 1447.

So Italy’s connections with the University went much further back than engineering and ice-cream!

Source: Inaugural addresses by Lords Rectors of the University of Glasgow; to which are prefixed, an historical sketch and account of the present state of the University. By John Barras Hay, Glasgow, 1839 (Special Collections Bh11-b.21).  

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, Glasgow Firsts

First connections with Guyana

The Baton Relay arrives today (02.03.2014) to the first of the Caribbean Commonwealth countries, Guyana, which gives me the perfect occasion to introduce my Club21 project about the University’s earliest connection with the only English speaking country in South America.

Researching early historical links between the University and Guyana, it soon became apparent that the majority of the students that went to Guyana were either merchants or physicians. One very interesting medical graduate, who I would like to feature, was Michael McTurk, whose family remained connected with British Guiana and has members living in modern Guyana to this day. Michael’s great-great-granddaughter, Diane McTurk, is a dedicated, and well-publicised, conservationist of wetlands ecosystems in Guyana.

McTurk listed in Register of the Doctors of Medicine 1728-1888 (GUA26677)

Michael McTurk was born in 1785 in New Cumnock. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1807 to study medicine under renowned Professor of Botany Dr James Jeffray. McTurk was awarded a degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1810.

McTurk’s signature (GUA26677)

He went on to spend 34 years as Principal Medical Officer in Demerara. As a member of the Georgetown Town Council he was responsible for two important measures that ensured the townspeople had water and the sugar estates were irrigated: the construction of a canal and a plan for water conservancy.

Michael was also a Major in the 2nd Battalion Guyana Militia. Although he participated in the suppression of the Demerara Slave Uprising in 1823, he became active in propagation of the freedom of all slaves in the colony as a member of the Court of Policy. After the passing of the Abolition of Slavery Act 1833, he brought in a local measure ensuring that full emancipation of the slaves began on 1 August 1838. The emancipated slaves expressed their gratitude to McTurk by presenting him a silver salver “as a slight testimonial of their gratitude for his exertions in shortening the period of their apprenticeship.”

McTurk was knighted by Queen Victoria on 7 September 1839 for his efforts on the behalf of the emancipation of the hundreds of slaves in Guyana. He died in Georgetown on 17th of November 1844.

We are still building the story of the University’s connections with Guyana, so get in touch if you have more information, and look out for new additions at the Guyana country page of the International Story.

By Marta Kulesza, MA Economics, Club21 project Commonwealth Caribbean: Guyana

Leave a comment

by | March 2, 2014 · 6:00 pm

From first residents to island experts – Papua New Guinea

As the Baton moves on to Papua New Guinea today (04.11.2013) – who would have thought that we would have two stories linking the University to that island?

William George LawesThe first permanent European residents of Papua New Guinea were the Lawes family, who settled in the capital Port Moresby from 1862. Reverend William George Lawes was a missionary of the London Missionary Society, for which he opened new missions on the island. During his time there he gained an in-depth knowledge of the people, culture and language, publishing Grammar and vocabulary of language spoken by Motu tribe (New Guinea) in 1888.

On several occasions he found himself acting as an interpreter and adviser to the various civil administrations – it is said that he was the interpreter for the Protectorate proclamation by James Elphinstone Erskine in 1884, when the southern half of the island was colonised by the UK who named it British New Guinea.

Lawes was considered an expert on the island and on the recommendation of the then colonial governor of British New Guinea, William MacGregor, it has been claimed, Lawes was conferred a DD by the University of Glasgow in 1895. MacGregor had been a medical student at the University of Glasgow in 1869-71, and his career as a medical officer overseas was so successful that he was appointed numerous high-ranking civil administration roles.

In 1900 another Glasgow graduate and fellow LMS missionary, Robert Lister Turner, joined Lawes as his assistant at the Training Institute for Teachers at Vatorata, which was transferred under Turner’s principalship to Fife Bay in 1930 and named Lawes College.

Turner’s matriculation slip 1892-93

Turner also turned his hand to translation and together with his wife, Edith Emma (née Calvert), translated the Bible into the native dialect. He served on the Legislative Council of Papua New Guinea, and was awarded a George VI medal for his services to the country. As well as teaching, translating and holding public office, Turner also undertook explorations of the mountains if island for which he was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, and provided information on the island’s flora for the Australian administration.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commonwealth of Nations, Europe, Glasgow Firsts, Oceania

First Bolivian student at the University of Glasgow

The University’s first Bolivian student was Federico La Faye (or Lafaye) who was Consul of Bolivia at Glasgow from 1918. He enrolled that year at the University, aged 27, to study Political Economy for three years under Professor William Scott. And during his honours year (1920-21), he was joined by the Chilean Consul at Glasgow, Tomas de la Barra Fontecilla.

Image of Octavio La Faye from

Image of Octavio La Faye from

La Faye was born in Cochabamba around 1891 and  was the son of General Octavio La Faye López, a general in the Bolivian Army.

Federico is not to be confused with the Federico Lafaye who assassinated President Agustín Morales in 1872. [That Federico Lafaye was of Irish origin and was the nephew of Morales’ wife].

So who was the Consul Federico La Faye? Please get in touch if you have any further information!

Feliz día de la Independencia Boliviana!

Leave a comment

Filed under Glasgow Firsts, South America

Did you know? First Cameroonian student

Alex B Gwan-Nulla (DC225/1/49) The University welcomed its first Cameroonian student in 1946, Alexander Baba Gwan-Nulla.

Dr Gwan-Nulla obtained his MBChB in 1952, and Diplomas in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene and Public Health from the Universities of Liverpool and London respectively before returning to Cameroon as a Chief Medical Officer in the Medical Division of the Cameroon Development Corporation, in Bota, Victoria.



Filed under Africa, Commonwealth of Nations, Glasgow Firsts