Hector M Macdonald


Death of Professor H M Macdonald.


Professor Hector Munro Macdonald, who had occupied the Chair of Mathematics at the University of Aberdeen since 1904, died yesterday morning in a nursing home in Aberdeen to which he was removed to undergo an operation last week. He was 71 years of age.

That his death was most unexpected may be judged from the fact that only on Tuesday of this week he was reappointed as the University's representative Governor on the Highlands and Islands Education Trust for a period of five years as from next August.

Professor Macdonald had a most distinguished academic and scientific career, especially in connection with electrical science. He graduated at Aberdeen University in 1886 with first class honours in mathematics. He proceeded to Clare College, Cambridge, where in 1891 he was Smith prizeman - the highest Mathematical distinction any newly-graduated man at Cambridge could win. He was made a Fellow of Clare College in 1890.

For fourteen years he devoted himself to research work and writing on Mathematical subjects, and was latterly one of Europe's foremost mathematicians. In 1901 he was awarded the Adams prize for an essay, which he later made the foundation for a volume on "Electric Waves." It was this great publication which established his reputation in the world of science, and which led to his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1916 the Royal Society conferred on him the great honour of awarding him the Royal Medal for an outstanding "contribution to advancement of natural knowledge."


During the war, Professor Macdonald's great scientific knowledge was requisitioned by the Government, especially in regard to antiaircraft defence.

He carried out valuable work for the Ministry of Munitions and the Ministry of Labour, and was chairman of the Inter-Departmental Committee on labour questions connected with building.

He was latterly appointed president of the London Mathematical Society.

it was not only as an expert scientist giving practical illustration of his knowledge that the Professor gained distinction, but in the ordinary duties pertaining to his Professorship.

He was beloved by the generations of students who passed through his classes. He was an able demonstrator, and inspired confidence, being ready at all times to solve what might appear to be difficulties.


He took a great interest in the development of the University, particularly in the important building schemes of recent years, and especially at King's College.

As a Governor of Robert Gordon's Colleges, the Professor also did valuable work, taking a special interest in the new wings which were erected a few years ago, and also in the erection and management of the MacRobert Hall. The Rowett Institute was another institution in which he was greatly interested, recognising the great value of the application of science to food nutrition and the prevention of disease among animals. He published "Electric Waves" in 1902, "Electromagnetism" in 1934, and various memoirs.

Professor Macdonald was a native of Fearn Rossshire, and received his education at Tain Royal Academy and Old Aberdeen Grammar School before proceeding to the University.

The Professor's portrait in oils was presented to the University in October 1933, and on that occasion glowing tributes were paid to his abilities.

Arrangements have been made for an academic funeral from the Aberdeen University College at King's College to the old Churchyard of St Machar Cathedral, the service to be conducted by the Very Rev. Principal Sir George Adam Smith and members of the Divinity Faculty of the University.

Hector M Macdonald died on Thursday 16 May 1935 and The Scotsman printed his obituary on the following day.