The life and legacy of Sir James Irvine, the Scotsman who laid the foundations of St Andrews’ growth as a word-class, research-led institution, is to be celebrated at a symposium in Parliament Hall, St Andrews on Wednesday September 28th.
Irvine, who was Principal of St Andrews from 1920 to 1952, is one of the commanding figures of the University’s long history. He led St Andrews through a period of significant expansion and modernisation, having masterminded the 500th anniversary celebrations a century ago and guided the institution towards the culture of research-led inquiry which pervades its present day mission.
Irvine’s life is examined in detail in a new book, ‘James Colquhoun Irvine: St Andrews’ Second Founder’ by his grand-daughter, Julia Melvin.
The St Andrews symposium will celebrate the launch of Melvin’s biography and bring together eminent scientists, historians and commentators to discuss Irvine’s legacy and its lessons for St Andrews’ future.
Speakers include the author, the chemist Tony Butler, Muniments Archivist Rachel Hart, and the writer and commentator William Shawcross.
Irvine was St Andrews’ Principal for over three decades, and his contribution is felt particularly strongly as the University marks its 600th Anniversary. He helped establish St Andrews as an international force in scientific research and teaching. He was a student, lecturer and ultimately Professor in the School of Chemistry, and Dean of the Faculty of Science.
His discoveries as a pioneering carbohydrate chemist gave knowledge to chemistry of the previously unlocked ‘ring structures’ of the carbohydrates. His work also helped to inform developments in biology such as the discovery of DNA.
During WWI he and his team in St Andrews helped save the lives of thousands of troops. His use of natural sources such as dahlia tubers and seaweed enabled the protection of Allied forces against meningitis, the scourge of the campaigns in Asia Minor.
Melvin’s new biography illuminates the life of this great Scotsman and may help extend his legacy. The author has pledged all royalties to St Andrews 600th Anniversary Campaign and its efforts to raise £100 million to nurture research-led teaching and inquiry across the Arts and Sciences.
The Irvine Symposium takes place at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday 28th September in Parliament Hall, South Street, St Andrews. The event is not ticketed and entry is free of charge. It will be followed by a viewing of a special exhibition on Principal Irvine in MUSA where there will be an opportunity to meet the author, Julia Melvin, who will be signing books after the event.
Notes to News Editors
‘James Colquhoun Irvine: St Andrews’ Second Founder’ by Julia Melvin is published by John Donald.
Julia Melvin is Irvine’s granddaughter. After graduating in English Language and Literature from the University of St Andrews, she trained as an archivist with the Royal Archives at Windsor and then worked as a textual editor for the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. She currently works as a freelance research historian and consultant archivist.
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