Rev. John Wilson, M.A.

RSE obituary

by C G Knott

Obituaries Index

Rev. John Wilson, M.A., was born in Montrose on 21st November 1847. After graduating as Master of Arts of Edinburgh University, he entered the New College, and was in due course licensed as a preacher by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh. He never, however, sought an ecclesiastical charge, but devoted himself to lightening the labours of his father, who was rector of the James Wilson Academy in Bannockburn. Latterly Mr John Wilson had entire charge of this school until, in 1887, it ceased to have a separate existence and was merged in the Public School. In addition to his work in Bannockburn he established and conducted evening science classes in Stirling, long before work of this kind was taken up by Educational Boards.

He had a strong bent towards mathematical studies, and in 1876 he, communicated to this Society an interesting paper "On Parallel Motions" a subject at that time fresh and fascinating. In illustration of this paper he exhibited several models neatly constructed by himself, by means of which accurately straight lines could be drawn. He was elected a Fellow in 1878.

In 1887 Mr Wilson settled in Edinburgh as a tutor in mathematics and natural philosophy, and soon acquired a sound reputation as a conscientious and efficient teacher of these subjects. His Notes on Physics and Natural Philosophy, an epitome of physical principles arranged alphabetically, admirably fulfilled the purpose intended, as many grateful graduates can testify.

In 1888 he became Treasurer of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, an office which he filled with great acceptance till 1895, when he was elected Vice-President. In the succeeding year he was chosen President. He was also an active member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, his position as Secretary of the local branch entailing upon him a considerable amount of organising work. He was an ardent Free Churchman and took a keen interest in the Home Mission work of the Free High Church, in which he also served as interim session-clerk for two years.

His death on 8th December 1896, after a few days' illness, gave a great shock to his many friends, to whom he had endeared himself by his quiet, unobtrusive, but truly manly worth.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh elected Wilson to a fellowship of the Society on 4 February 1878. He had been proposed by Philip Kelland, James Sime, Thomas A Graham Balfour, and Peter Guthrie Tait. Wilson's obituary, written by C G Knott, appeared in John Wilson, Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh 22 (1897-99), i-ii.