G A Gibson

Scotsman obituary

Obituaries Index

Emeritus Professor Gibson


The death occurred at his residence in Glasgow last night of Emeritus Professor George Alexander Gibson, who was in his 72nd year. For a period extending to over forty years he had a distinguished career as a teacher of mathematics, and from 1909 to 1927 he occupied the chair of Mathematics in Glasgow University. He was an LL.D. of Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities.

Born at Greenlaw, Berwickshire, after the usual training of a county school he entered the University of Glasgow in 1874. There he had a brilliantly successful career as a student, securing prizes in nearly all the classes of the Arts curriculum. Graduating as Master of Arts in 1881, a year later he gained the William Euing Fellowship in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. In 1883 he began his long connection with the teaching staff of the University, being then appointed one of the assistants to Professor Jack, and promoted in the following, year to the senior assistantship. In this capacity, during the period from 1884 to 1895, he had partial charge of the most advanced as well as of the elementary divisions of the mathematical class. Supplementary to the work falling to him during the winter session, he organised and conducted during the summer recess tutorial classes in the subject of the senior mathematical class, and in special subjects prescribed for candidates for Mathematical honours.


When the Ordinance came into force instituting a summer session in the Faculty of Arts, Mr Gibson was appointed Lecturer in Mathematics, and for several years he gave the summer course of lectures qualifying for graduation. In 1905 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics in the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and completely reorganised the mathematical curriculum of the College with the object not merely of making the training in mathematics more thorough, but especially of adapting it to the needs of students of physics and engineering. On the formation of the Glasgow Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers he was asked by the Governors of the Technical College to serve on the Committee, and he took an active interest in its work. In 1903, at the request of the St Andrews Provincial Committee, he gave a course of lectures on mathematics to teachers from secondary schools.


Prof. Gibson made a careful study of the school and University systems of France, Germany, and America, and was deeply interested in the discussions both in this country and abroad on tin teaching of mathematics, and on the relations of the technical colleges to the Universities. He was a member of the committee appointed by the British Association in 1901 to consider the improvement of mathematical teaching. At the International Congress of Mathematicians which met in Rome in 1903, it was decided to constitute an International Commission for the investigation of the range and methods of school mathematics, and he was asked to prepare the Scottish section of the report. He was the author of a treatise on the 'Differential and Integral Calculus," of an "Introduction to the Calculus," and of a work on "Graphs." The first of these books was published in 1901, reprinted in 1903, and again reprinted, with two additional chapters, in 1906; the other two books have been reprinted more than once. He was also responsible for a work oil co-ordinate geometry and the calculus. During session 1888-9 he was president of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, and in 1902 was elected an honorary member of the Society. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and was a member of its Council from 1905 to 1908. He was also a member of the American Mathematical Society, and of the German Mathematical Association. In 1905 the University of Edinburgh conferred on him the honorary degree of LL.D.


In September 1909 Dr Gibson was appointed to succeed Professor Jack in the Chair of Mathematics in Glasgow University, a position which he held for 18 years. Following his retirement, he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University. It was then said of him that in all his teaching Professor Gibson had shown energy and thoroughness, and had raised the work of his department to a very high level. Professor Gibson is survived by his widow, and two sons and one daughter. Both of the sons are medical men.

George Alexander Gibson died on Tuesday 1 April 1930. On the following day his obituary appeared in The Scotsman: