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Stirling’s STEM Pioneers

Cardwell, Holme, 1813 1895; John Macfarlane Of Coneyhill

Inspired by the Edinburgh International Science Festival we’ve delved into Stirling’s past to explore the lives and work of 5 STEM pioneers from Stirling.

Sir David Bruce (1855-1931)

Sir David Bruce was a Pathologist & Microbiologist who investigated tropical diseases. He was born in Australia in 1855 to a Scottish father, and returned to Scotland with his family when he was 5. He was educated at Stirling High School and the University of Edinburgh.

In 1883 he joined the Army Medical Service and was sent to Malta in 1884. When he arrived, he began investigating a mystery illness which many patients were suffering from in the island’s hospitals. Within 2 years Bruce had discovered the casue, Micrococcus melitensis now known as Brucella spp in his honour. In South Africa he discovered the Trypanosoma brucei which caused sleeping sickness in the early 1900s.

He retired in 1919 and died in 1931 on the day of his wife’s funeral.

Black and white portrait photgraph of Sir David Bruce, sat in suit cross armed.
Sir David Bruce by Bassano Ltd, whole-plate glass negative, 2 October 1923
© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Horne (1848-1928)

John Horne was a Scottish Geologist born in 1848 in Campsie in Stirlingshire. His parents were farmers, and he was educated at Glasgow High School and the University of Glasgow, where he was taught by Lord Kelvin, but he left university at 19 without graduating.

In 1867 he joined the HM Geological Survey and was apprenticed to Ben Peach, who would become his lifelong collaborator and friend. Horne wrote books on the geology of the Highlands, and was involved in mapping the Lowlands. Horne and Peach also wrote ‘Northwest Highlands Memoir’ together in 1907, with Horne becoming the manager of the Scottish branch of the Survey from 1901 until 1911.

Horne served as the President of the Edinburgh Geological Society and lived in the capital at 12 Keith Crescent, Blackhall. He died in Edinburgh in 1928, and a monument in his memory was erected in 1930 at Inchnadamph, a hamlet in Assynt. In 2001, statues of Horne and Peach were also installed at Knockan Crag in Ullapool.

John MacFarlane (1785-1868)

John Macfarlane was born in Stirling in 1785 and went on to become a successful textile merchant, spending much of his life in Glasgow and Manchester, but retired to Bridge of Allan as a wealthy man where he dedicated his time and money to local philanthropy.

In 1844 he opened the Macfarlane Gallery of Casts and Paintings in Bridge of Allan, which also housed his significant Natural History Collection, and in 1855 he established a free Library in Stirling. Macfarlane also donated funds to the building of Stirling High School and the Wallace Monument.

He died in 1868, but a new McFarlane Museum building was completed on Henderson Street in 1887, designed by Stirling architects William and Ebenezer Simpson and paid for using Macfarlane’s bequest. The collection was dispersed in the 1930s but the Hall remained in use as a concert hall, with The Beatles playing in 1963, until it closed in 1979.

You can visit his grave in the Old Town Cemetery at the Top of the Town, or the Category B Listed Museum Hall on Henderson Street, which has now been redeveloped into apartments.

The head and shoulders of John Macfarlane of Coneyhill, in marble
The head and shoulders of John Macfarlane of Coneyhill, in marble. Macfarlane was the founder of the Macfarlane Museum, formerly known as the Museum Hall in Bridge of Allan. The bust was found in the Albert Hall, Stirling, where it was being used as an ornament in the café. By Holme Cardwell (1813–1895). The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum.

Charles Randolph (1809-1878)

Charles Randolph was born in Stirling in 1809 and was educated at the University of Glasgow. In 1834 he set up a millwright’s business called Randolph, Elliot & Co. John Elder joined this partnership in 1852 and it became Randolph, Elder & Co., one of the most successful marine engineering and shipbuilding companies in the world.

Charles Randolph retired from the partnership in 1868, leaving John Elder as the sole partner. In 1886 William Pearce purchased the company and renamed it Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company after the old farm it was built on.

To find out more about Randolph’s legacy, you can visit Fairfield Heritage in Govan. This a community museum is housed in the former Engine Works and Drawing Offices of Fairfields. The building itself was designed by John Keppie of Honeyman and Keppie and Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was completed in 1891.

Alice Julia Marshall (1891-1987)

Dr Alice Julia Marshall was a pioneering woman in medicine. She was born at 31 Snowdon Place in Stirling in 1891, and her father was a local dentist. She was educated at the University of Glasgow, graduating with a degree in medicine in 1917. She carried out her Residency at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and after graduating joined the pathology department; specialising in gynaecological pathology and heart pathology.

Dr Marshall was also an educator; training junior pathologists, and editing the standard text-book on pathology at the time. In 1957 she also helped with the Mass Radiography Campaign in Glasgow, which x-rayed 714,915 people in a largely successful attempt to eradicate tuberculosis from the city.

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