Category Archives: North America

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.


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US Naval Academy links with Glasgow

The University of Glasgow’s historic links with shipbuilding on the Clyde are clear to see throughout the University campus. The Randolph Hall, for example, is named for Sir Charles Randolph, co-owner of the prestigious Randolph, Elder & Co. shipyard, who left £60,000 to the University to complete the construction of the Bute Hall. Similarly, the University’s School of Naval Architecture was, until 1906, housed in Pearce Lodge, named for another shipwright, Sir William Pearce. Indeed, the Chair of Naval Architecture was endowed by Isabella and John Elder themselves.

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Evidently, the University of Glasgow has a rich history of Naval Architecture. The subject flourished in the late 19th century, coinciding with an influx of international students arriving in Glasgow to study at the world-renowned school. Most notable amongst the University’s records are a high number of students from the United States of America, many of whom were graduates of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. These students of Naval Architecture often went on to fill high ranking positions within the US Navy prior to the First World War.

Washington Lee Capps , for example, became Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, alongside a promotion to Rear-Admiral within two decades of his graduation in 1888. During World War Two, Capps was honoured by the US Navy with the naming of two ships in his honour.

Graduation Signature DSc 1912

Graduation Signature DSc 1912

Similarly, many other University of Glasgow alumni rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral. Richard Morgan Watt, a graduate of the Class of 1892, was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in construction during the First World War, and was also the primary investigator on the enquiry into the sinking of the Titanic. A classmate of Watt, George Henry Rock, also achieved this rank, and was awarded the Navy Cross for his role at the New York Shipyard. Many of the men who studied at the University of Glasgow are now buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in the United States, reflecting their role in serving their nation.

Why then, were so many Americans coming to study in Glasgow in this period?

In answering this question, it is important to consider the reasons that Naval Architecture was so prominent in the 1890s. In this period, the face of Naval Architecture was changing completely. Naval fleets, prior to 1890, were made up of ships which looked nothing like the style of ship we would recognise today as a modern battleships.The HMS Devastation was probably the most powerful ship as late as the mid-1880s, and Glasgow-built ships, such as HMS Campania, had to be completely refitted to serve a new purpose.

HMS Campania, converted Cunard Line ocean liner to seaplane tender and aircraft carrier for WWI

HMS Campania, converted Cunard Line ocean liner to seaplane tender and aircraft carrier for WWI

Given Britain’s rank as perhaps the most powerful naval force in the World, it is unsurprising that its ports, such as Glasgow, were at the forefront of naval innovation and the development of a new class of ship. This was a period in which naval architecture was developing at its fastest ever rate, and nations all over the world were keen to keep up, and Glasgow was the ideal institution at which to study.

Furthermore, it must be remembered that the United States has not always been the military force it is known as today. Indeed, in the 1890s, when these students were studying, the US Navy was insignificant in comparison to its European counterparts – it was, in fact, smaller than that of Belgium. There was a substantial naval element to the US Civil War, with both sides developing significant Naval forces (many ships were constructed in British ports such as Glasgow and Birkenhead), yet by the turn of the century these largely wooden ships were vastly outdated. The US Navy was, at this point, effectively a coastal defence force, unable to take to the seas and challenge for naval superiority.

Alongside this, there were a number of notable military theorists discussing the importance of a Navy in this period. Most notable amongst these was Alfred Mahan, a US Navy Admiral and strategist. In his piece, “The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783”, published in 1890, he theorised that nations with superior navies would have a greater worldwide impact. This concept was hugely influential throughout the world, and in the United States in particular, and this effectively sparked a naval arms race. The United States soon began to realise their need to catch up with their European counterparts, and this must be seen to be integral to the sending of so many men to Glasgow.

The University of Glasgow, then, was at the forefront of Naval Architecture in this period, and the United States needed a more advanced Navy. In this light, it is unsurprising that so many Americans, who would go on to achieve great things as naval constructors, would have studied at the University.

By Hugh Roberts, MA History (who continues to research the Naval Academy students at Glasgow pre WWI).



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Canadian-born students until 1914

With Canada as the next port of call on the Queen’s Baton Relay (27.04.2014), International Story editor, Clare Mackintosh, shares just a few of the highlights of her research on the University’s links with that vast country:

As part of my Club 21 Commonwealth placement, my project was to research 10 biographies of Canadian born students who attended the University of Glasgow until 1914.

There has been a long connection between Canada and Glasgow, with nearly half of the institutions in higher education until the 20th century having had Scots involved in their foundation, such as the establishment of McGill University, founded in 1821 by University of Glasgow alumnus James McGill. The University continues to maintain and develop these historical links, and is currently setting up a Scottish-Canadian Studies Program.

Therefore, during my research, I came across a variety of different students who came from very different backgrounds, but all with the same strong Canadian-Scottish connections: From the son of a farmer , like medical graduate James Fleming Goodchild, to a daughter of a clergyman, fellow medical graduate Caroline Jane Maclennan.

The stories were individual and varied: Harvard Turnbull and Anstruther Abercrombie Lawson were just two students whose stories stood out. McGill engineering graduate Harvard Turnbull came to Glasgow  for further study in 1902. After taking courses at Glasgow in Naval Architecture and Senior Drawing, Turnbull entered the shipbuilding business back in his native Canada, and his knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, The Harvard Turnbull Company, which dealt in railway, marine and contractor supplies. Anstruther Abercrombie Lawson lectured at the University in Botany between 1907-10 while undertaking postgraduate study. He graduated DSc with his paper on special morphology of the Coniferales and was subsequently appointed the foundation Professor of Botany at the University of Sydney.

Short Arts courses were also very common among Canadian/born students, many of them studying Arts and Social Science subjects as English Literature, Moral Philosophy and Political Economy for one year before returning to Canada, showing the strong educational exchanges between the countries.

I have found this placement extremely interesting and beneficial to my knowledge of the University as a whole. It was also a good opportunity to learn the skills required to gather information from primary sources on each particular student and to compile their biography. I would definitely recommend this placement to anyone, particularly those who have a keen interest in history.

By Clare MacKintosh, MA History

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by | April 27, 2014 · 3:30 pm

Glasgow and The Revolutionary War in America

In response to Tony Pollard’s tweet:

referring to Alexander Garden’s involvement in the Revolutionary War in America, who later published Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War (1822), we have been looking at other students who were involved directly or indirectly in the Revolutionary War:

Arts student, John Houston who graduated as a surgeon in Pennsylvania and went on to serve during the War.

The Brooke brothers from Virginia were interrupted in their studies at Glasgow by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and forced to flee the country – read the stories of Laurence and Robert.

There are others whose lives were affected by the Revolutionary War, you can find the current list here. However, there are, and will be, more Revolutionary War-related stories added to the International Story, but if you know of any more stories now, please get in touch!

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Freshers’ Camp Photos

The Archive Services twitter coverage of materials to celebrate Freshers’ Week caught the eye of the International Story. The information held in the student handbooks gives only a glimpse of the many changes and shifts for students in adapting to University life. For those Freshers from overseas, the changes, shifts, not to mention some shocks (from the culture to the weather!) must have been even more challenging . The Freshers’ Camp, however, may have been an eye-opener for home and international students alike. Among the Freshers’ Camp Photos of 1949 and 1950, there was one from the Auchendennan Freshers’ Camp, September 1949, (DC382/5/1/4/3) of the President of the International Club with students from Hong Kong, USA, India, Norway and Kenya.  Picking up on the student from Kenya, there was a story about a truly international man

Nirmal Singh Rihal at Auchendennan Freshers’ Camp, September 1949

This was Nirmal Singh Rihal’s first year at the University – he was born at Bhattian, Punjab, India, but had been educated both in India as well as Kenya, where his family moved with his father’s work in the Indian government civil service.

Rihal came to Glasgow on a Kenyan government bursary and would go on to graduate MBChB in 1955.

Upon graduation he worked in the UK, before returning to Kenya, and then pursuing further study in Toronto, where he obtained his Diploma of Public Health.

It was Canada that Rihal would make his home. He was one of the earliest Sikh immigrants to Manitoba, where he practiced as a medical officer. Rihal was said to have been an active member of the Sikh community, and was involved in Manitoba’s legal exemption in helmet laws that allows Sikhs to wear turbans rather than helmets while riding motorcycles. Manitoba became the first jurisdiction in North America to implement this exemption.

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We’re taking up the Commonwealth Baton!

The International Story will be keeping up (or at least trying to keep up) with the Glasgow 2014 Baton as it passes through the countries that form the Commonwealth of Nations (and back). We will be blogging about the University’s alumni, staff and heritage connections with each Commonwealth country as the Baton arrives.

Commonwealth of Nations page of International Story

Commonwealth of Nations page of International Story

The Queen’s Baton Relay will start at Buckingham Palace on 9 October 2013, where The Queen will place Her message to the Commonwealth into the baton. The Baton will then proceed on its 288-day journey, covering over 190,000 kilometres.

First stop – India on 11 October 2013.

If you can’t wait until then, you can check out the connections we have so far uncovered (by no means complete) at the Commonwealth of Nations page of the International Story website. In the meantime, if you have any Commonwealth-related connections to share, please get in touch.

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“I have no time to tell you of the great wonders I saw”

The University Archives were recently donated a letter from Midway Village, a museum and archive in Rockford, Illinois. The letter was written by a Hugh Martin to his family in Prince Edward Island, Canada, dated 25 November 1851. It demonstrates yet again the connections that the University has forged through its alumni. The University of Glasgow has helped shape the world we live in not just through its most famous alumni – the Nobel Prize winners and Prime Ministers – but through the educating and equipping ordinary men and women drawn from all over the globe. Such is the case with Hugh Martin whose personality shines through in this letter:

page 1 of letter (GUAS: ACCN3761)

page 1 of letter (GUAS: ACCN3761)

“I am now situated like yourself, far from acquaintances and relations, surrounded on every side with dangers and difficulties, but God who is all powerful can preserve me through all, and I have great reason to thank and praise him for his special care over me since I left my parents. But more especially for his presence and cheering influences upon my soul. Yesterday in reading a fraction of His word I was as excited by his cheering of love so that I was forced to give public vent to my feelings…”

As his letter shows in the most personal and endearing terms, Hugh was a man of strong faith and was evidently drawn to Glasgow in pursuit of training in Divinity. He relates the network of connections that brought him to Glasgow in his letter too, explaining that “I had letters of recommendation from… McNair to Dr Hill the Divinity Professor and to the Rev Norman McLeod who was once in the Island.” There was a Reverend McLeod who we know was involved in efforts to create a community in Nova Scotia and then later Australia; while not definitively proven, it does seem likely that this again shows the influence Scotland and it’s universities had on the nascent Canada. That Glasgow University plays a prominent part in doing so is evidenced by the direct mention of Doctor McNair.

The second reason that I wanted to share this letter is that I feel it’s genuinely easy to relate to, and shows that today’s international students faced the same experiences as their nineteenth century counterparts.

page 2 of letter (GUAS: ACCN3761)

page 2 of letter (GUAS: ACCN3761)

“It was a trying thing to leave my mother. I think sometimes that her cries and groans are yet in my ears,” he writes, movingly. “My whole mind was wrapped up I sorrow on leaving them although I made the utmost endeavour to subdue it. I could not at this time when I think of my mother withhold my tears.”

He also has an altogether familiar gripe about the cost of his student experience: “I have paid 5 pounds for my passage to Liverpool and it cost me 23 shillings more before I settled in Glasgow… I had to pay 12 pounds 7 shillings already for college fees and books and I soon will have to get more books.” He also writes that “I used always to be at my studies but I never had such as I have now. I must be up to 11 every night and in the morning at 5 in fact I am intruding on the time now by writing this… I go to college in the morning at day light for an hour, then at 11 another and at 12 a third which finishes my time in college for that day but I get very long lessons to learn.” It is impossible for any university student not to sympathise.

Hugh Martin, unfortunately, disappears from University records two years after his 1851 arrival in Glasgow. Any information on Hugh, his friend Malcolm, or how the letter arrived in Illinois would be greatly appreciated. Nontheless his letter is, I think, a valuable contribution to the University’s International Story. Hugh’s own words describe best his time as an international student in Glasgow:

“I entered the college on Monday. I have no time to tell you of the great wonders I saw.”

By Lawrence Mills, MA History

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