John George Brotchie Meiklejohn


Born: 1872 in Weydale, Thurso, Caithness, Scotland
Died: 19 January 1951 in Dundee, Scotland


John Meiklejohn's father was James Meiklejohn (born in Dunnet, Caithness about 1827) who was a farmer. His mother was Janet Meiklejohn (born in Walls, Orkney about 1831). He had several older siblings: Elizabeth (born about 1857), Donald (born about 1858), James (born about 1859), Margaret (born about 1861), Janet (born about 1864), Mary Ann (born about 1866), William (born about 1868) and Sinclair (born about 1870) and one younger brother, David (born about 1875).

John Meiklejohn attended Weydale Public School for five years, followed by the Miller Institution for four and a half years. He sat the Preliminary Examinations of Thurso School Board obtaining passes in Higher Mathematics, Latin, and English in 1892, also passing Lower Greek in the same year. After having passed the Preliminary Examination he first matriculated at Edinburgh University in October 1892. It is perhaps worth noting that Meiklejohn did not seem particularly fond of his middle names since he gave 'John Meiklejohn' as his 'Name in full' when he matriculated.

He went to the University of Edinburgh to study classics and in his first session studied Ordinary Latin and Greek. However, after taking one of Chrystal's Mathematics classes he became a mathematician. He was awarded an M.A. in 1898 with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Following this, he was appointed as an Assistant Master at Dundee High School. In 1902 he was promoted to Head of Mathematics at the School, a post which he held until he retired in 1938. Henry Jack writes [1]:-

As a teacher he was supreme. Sir Edmund Whittaker once told the present writer that he was the best teacher of Mathematics in the East of Scotland. If there were any doubts as to his rapid promotion to the headship after only four years of teaching, these were soon dispelled, for three years later there began an almost unbroken sequence of highly-placed John Welsh Mathematical Bursars at his old University. His outstanding success as a teacher depended on three things - (1) he was a first-class mathematician with a great love for his subject; (2) he prepared every lesson with meticulous care; (3) he was a strict disciplinarian.
Meiklejohn joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in December 1898, in the year in which he graduated from Edinburgh University.

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

As to his hobbies, Henry Jack writes [1]:-

Meiklejohn was a keen swimmer all his life, and a month of every summer was spent in exploring some new part of the Highlands and Islands, either on foot or on cycle.

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

November 2007
MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Meiklejohn.html]