William Gentle, B.Sc. (Edin.)

RSE Obituary

by W McL Dewar

Obituaries Index

Mr William Gentle, formerly Headmaster of George Heriot's School, died on March 3 1, 1964, at the age of eighty-seven. Born in Dundee, he removed with his family to Edinburgh while in his early teens, and completed his education at Heriot's. After a university career at Edinburgh distinguished by the winning of several bursaries and prizes he was one of a small number of Bachelors of Science capped in April 1903, at a time when science was still struggling for a separate existence in the universities. Gentle returned to his old school as a teacher of mathematics and physics and at once established himself as an exacting but inspiring mentor. In 1908 when Mr (later Dr) J B Clark was appointed Headmaster, Gentle was an obvious choice to succeed him as Head of the Physics Department. In that same year he was elected a Fellow of the Society.

Apart from the period of his military service (brought to an abrupt end by severe wounds) in World War I, Gentle's professional life was spent in the service of his old school; and the influence of his teaching and inspiration on the growth of mathematics and science in Scotland and furth of it was incalculable. His appointment to succeed Dr Clark again in 1926 as Headmaster was a most popular one; and his influence was exerted more tellingly still.

Gentle was, and remained to the day of his death, a man of tremendous energy and vitality, wide in his enthusiasms and restless in pursuit of them. The sole regret of his many friends was that he left no written work.

William Gentle was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 21 December 1908, his proposers being James Gordon MacGregor, David Fowler Lowe, Thomas Burns, John Brown Clark. This obituary, written by W McL Dewar, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1965, pages 17-18.