John Mackie

Born: 27 February 1888 in Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 6 January 1955 in Edinburgh, Scotland

John Mackie was brought up in Leith, near Edinburgh, and he studied at Leith Academy which he entered in 1899. He passed English in 1901, and Mathematics in 1902, both at the Higher level, in the Leaving Certificate examination and he was Dux of the Academy in 1902. He decided to enter the teaching profession by becoming a pupil-teacher under the Leith School Board. He taught at Leith Academy but continued to study there passing French in 1904, and Latin in 1905, both at the Higher level, in the Leaving Certificate examination.

He attended the University of Edinburgh, first matriculating in October 1906. He also attended courses at the training college. He took Mathematics at Ordinary level in his first session at university, then Chemistry, Latin, Natural Philosophy, and Education all at Ordinary level in session 1907-08. He took Honours courses in Intermediate Mathematics, Intermediate Natural Philosophy, Advanced Mathematics, Function Theory, Electrokinetics, Advanced Dynamics, and Advanced Experimental Physics between October 1908 and summer 1911.

Mackie graduated with an M.A. in July 1911 with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and was awarded a B.Sc. (Pure) in the same year. He then proceeded to teach mathematics at schools in Leith, following a short spell teaching at the university. He was awarded the Sir David Baxter Scholarship in Mathematics in June 1913 but the start of World War I in 1914 interrupted his studies, and he served with the Royal Scots Regiment during the First World War.

After submitting his thesis An inquiry into the tetrad difference method of testing the two factor theory of intelligence to the University of Edinburgh, Mackie was awarded a D.Sc. in 1929.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 4 March 1929 having been proposed by Alexander Morgan, Godfrey Hilton Thomson, Sir Edmund Taylor Whittaker, and Ralph Allan Sampson. By this time he was Principal Teacher of Mathematics in Leith Academy and in 1933 he became Rector of the Academy. Allen writes [1]:-

As pupil, pupil-teacher, principal teacher, rector of a school which he loved, in a town where he was brought up and of whose history and tradition few men were more knowledgeable, he was found to be a quiet-voiced, patient and kindly gentleman. Staff, pupils and former pupils held him in high esteem and affection.
Mackie held this position for 20 years until he retired in February 1953.

In February 1921 Mackie joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society. At this time he was living at 19 Beresford Avenue, Leith, where he continued to live until 1938 when he moved to 7 York Road, Edinburgh. He was honoured by being elected as President of the Society in session 1945-46.

His obituary in the Edinburgh Mathematical Notes is at THIS LINK.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

November 2007
MacTutor History of Mathematics