Alumni in history
Find out more about figures from the University's past; a mix of household names and more unusual hidden histories, whose lives and achievements are less well known. We add one new profile every month.
Stan Paterson (1924-2013)
Leading British glaciologist who mined glacial cores that then provided climate data for the world's last 100,000 years.
Awn Alsharif Qasim (1933-2006)
Leading Sudanese scholar, government minister, and expert in Arabic and Islamic culture and language.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Marking the 250th anniversary of his birth, we celebrate the life of Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh's most renowned literary son, through 10 places in Edinburgh and beyond that helped form his life and work.
Michael Shea (1938-2009)
We explore the life of the Scottish diplomat and author, whose involvement in a 1986 royal press crisis recently gripped viewers of 'The Crown'.
Alexander Wood (1817-1884)
The Scottish physician and President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1858 to 1861. He invented the first true hypodermic syringe that has made today's mass vaccinations possible.
Elke Mackenzie (1911-1990)
In LGBT+ History Month, we look at the life and work of Elke Mackenzie, known as I.M. Lamb within the field of botany. She specialised in lichenology and was noted for fruitful polar explorations and various influential publications.
Molly Fergusson (1914-1997)
Prolific civil engineer and the first female fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who has inspired a new initiative for women in engineering at the University.
James Sebe Moroka (1891-1985)
Medical doctor and President of the African National Congress from 1949 to 1952.
Arthur Jeffery (1892-1959)
Australian Methodist minister and renowned scholar of Middle Eastern languages and manuscripts.
Mardi Barrie (1930-2004)
Edinburgh-based postwar painter and teacher who was widely acclaimed and collected throughout her long career.
Alexina McWhinnie (1923-2017)
Social worker, researcher, and advocate for the rights of adopted and donor-conceived people.
Marjory Kennedy-Fraser (1857-1930)
Scottish singer, composer and music teacher who studied as an extra-academical student.
Elizabeth Catherine Carmichael (1880-1928)
Celtic scholar, Gaelic advocate and acclaimed editor.
Alexander Murray Drennan (1884-1984)
Scottish pathologist who promoted the widespread use of Edinburgh University Solution (Eusol) during the First World War.
Daphne Pochin Mould (1920-2014)
Photographer, broadcaster, geologist, traveller, pilot and Ireland's first female flight instructor.
Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
January 29th marks the 93rd anniversary of the birth of Edward Abbey, the influential American writer whose work continues to inspire modern environmentalists, and who spent a year at the University of Edinburgh.
Marion Cameron Gray (1902-1979)
Scottish mathematician who discovered the first graph with 54 vertices and 81 edges while working at American Telephone and Telegraph. The innovative and useful graph is commonly known as the Gray graph.
Helen Adam (1909-1993)
Helen Adam was a Scottish-American poet and visual artist, whose work features tales of fatal romances, sadistic sexual affairs, jealous lovers and vengeful demons.
Sahib Singh Sokhey (1887-1971)
Indian biochemist, British Indian Army general and military physician who was also a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament
Samuel Manuwa (1903-1976)
Pioneering Nigerian surgeon, Inspector General of Medical Services, and former Chief Medical Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Ruth Adler (1944-1994)
Feminist, human rights campaigner and child welfare advocate.
David Hosack (1769-1835)
Influential physician, botanist, and New York citizen who was the first person to bring European-style landscape architecture to the United States of America.
Shelia Tinney (1918-2010)
Irish mathematical physicist whose PhD from the University of Edinburgh made her the first Irish-born and -raised woman to receive a doctorate in the mathematical sciences
Bungy Watson (1890 - 1914)
Accomplished English rugby union player and First World War sailor who studied medicine at Edinburgh.
Mona Chalmers Watson (1872 - 1936)
Scottish physician, head of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and the first woman to receive an MD from the University of Edinburgh.
C. K. Scott Moncrieff (1889 - 1930)
In national LGBT History month, we look at the life of gay writer C. K. Scott Moncrieff, the twice-graduate of Edinburgh who became famous for his English translations of Proust.
Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828–1901)
Entomologist who became the first woman Fellow of the Meteorological Society and first woman to be given an honorary doctorate by University of Edinburgh.
Margaret Tait (1918-1999)
November marks the centenary of the birth of Margaret Tait, the Orcadian medic turned film-maker and poet.
James Blyth (1839 - 1906)
Scottish electrical engineer, and a pioneer in the field of electricity generation through wind power and his wind turbine.
Asrat Woldeyes (1928 – 1999)
Eminent surgeon and university dean turned political opponent who stood for unity in Ethiopia.
Marion Ross (1903 – 1994)
Scottish physicist and pioneer in X-rays and superconductivity.
Norman Dott (1897-1973)
As the NHS celebrates its 70th anniversary, we take a look at the life of Professor Norman Dott, who helped establish the University's neurology department in 1960.
Agnes Yewande Savage (1906 – 1964)
Influential Scottish-Nigerian doctor, and the first woman of West African heritage to train and qualify in orthodox medicine.
Jennie Lee (1904 - 1988)
One of the first woman MPs, prominent socialist, and leading founder of the Open University.
Robert Garioch (1909 - 1981)
Sharp-witted poet famed for his wry commentaries on Edinburgh life.
Elizabeth G. K. Hewat (1895 - 1968)
The first woman to graduate with BD and PhD degrees from New College.
John P. Mackintosh (1929 - 1978)
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death, we look at the life of John P. Mackintosh - politician, professor, writer, and proponent of Scottish devolution.
Patrick Heron Watson 1832 – 1907
Eminent surgeon, pioneer of medical anaesthesia, and advocate for women working in surgery and medicine.
Alexander Aitken (1895-1967)
Regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest mathematicians and Chair of Mathematics at the University from 1946 to 1965.
Ian Charleson (1949 – 1990)
Celebrated stage and film actor who played fellow graduate Eric Liddell in 'Chariots of Fire'.
Dr Isabella Pringle (1876-1963)
Missionary, child health pioneer, and the first female Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799)
Judge, philosopher and founder of modern comparative historical linguistics.
John Baillie (1886-1960)
Scottish theologian and Church of Scotland minister.
Viscount Palmerston (1784 – 1865)
Following this month's General Election, we take a look at the life of former Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston.
William Soutar (1898 – 1943)
Scottish poet and diarist, known for his ‘bairn rhymes’, and recently honoured by the City of Edinburgh.
Ronald Fairbairn (1889 – 1964)
Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and the father of the object relations theory of psychoanalysis.
Vivien Kellems (1896–1975)
Industrialist, politician and inventor who became known for her battle with the US taxman.
Neil Paterson (1915-1995)
Academy Award-winning screenplay writer, novelist and captain of Dundee United.