Peter Ramsay

Born: 1879 in Glasgow, Scotland
Died: 2 July 1926 in Edinburgh, Scotland

Peter Ramsay's father was James Ramsay (born in Monifeith, Perthshire about 1851) who was a tea merchant and grocer. His mother was Helen F Ramsay (born in Campsie, Stirlingshire about 1854). Peter Ramsay had an older sister Helen (born about 1879). After the death of James Ramsay Helen F Ramsay married the widower Robert McLintock (born Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire about 1842). He was a secretary to a calico printer with three children Mary, Christina and George from his earlier marriage.

Peter Ramsay was educated at Whitehill Public School, Glasgow. On 11 December 1895 it was announced in The Scotsman:-

Dougald McQuistan and Peter Ramsay, two students of the secondary department of Whitehill Public School, Glasgow, have been awarded by the Science and Art Department "Queen's Prizes" to mathematics.
Ramsay studied at Glasgow University. He graduated with an M.A. with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in 1900. After graduating, he was appointed Master at Allan Glen's School, Glasgow, but also continued to work at the University for a B.Sc. which was awarded in 1904 with special distinction in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.

In 1908 he was appointed Second Mathematics Master at George Watson's College, Edinburgh. He was promoted to Head of Mathematics at Watson's in 1914. The Scotsman on 15th December 1913 announced this:-

Appointment to George Watson's College, Edinburgh.

Mr Peter Ramsay, M.A., B.Sc., has been appointed Dr Pinkerton's successor as head of the Mathematics Department in George Watson' s College, Edinburgh. Mr Ramsay is an honours graduate of Glasgow University, and a week or two ago was selected for a similar post in Daniel Stewart's College, which he now vacates.

Ramsay held this position until his death in 1926 [1]:-
Ramsay's skill as a teacher was of an unusually high order, and he combined with it a natural bent for organisation, which made his service in the general administration of the school very valuable. At the time of his death he was acting as Deputy Headmaster of [George Watson's Boys' College].
Ramsay became a member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in March 1905. He was Treasurer of the Society during 1916-1921, then President for session 1922-23. He was the editor of the Mathematical Notes for the part No 22 May 1924 and the succeeding part. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 25 May 1914. He was proposed for the fellowship by John Alison, George A Gibson, Sir Edmund T Whittaker, James Gordon Gray.

Ramsay's death was announced in The Scotsman of Saturday, 3rd July 1926:-


The death occurred suddenly yesterday morning of Mr Peter Ramsay, M.A., B.Sc., F.R.S.E., who was deputy headmaster and head Mathematical master, of George Watson's College, Edinburgh. Mr Ramsay was travelling in a tramcar when he became ill. With him at the time, were several masters of Watson's College, who helped to assist Mr Ramsay to a taxi cab. He had, however, had a seizure, and died before the cab could reach his home.

A native of Glasgow, Mr Ramsay had a distinguished career at Glasgow University, and taught at Allan Glen's school in his native city from 1900 to 1908. On coming to Watson's College eighteen years ago, he became assistant mathematical master there. He succeeded Dr P Pinkerton as the head of the mathematical department in 1914. He was particularly popular with the boys of the school, and was an enthusiastic follower of their sports. Mr Ramsay's wife predeceased him over a year ago.

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

November 2007
MacTutor History of Mathematics