Alexander Fairley Buchan

Born: 1904 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 10 January 1976 in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Alexander Buchan's father was John R Buchan. Alexander attended Sciennes School, Edinburgh, in 1916, then George Heriot's School, Edinburgh, from 1916-1922. In September 1922 he obtained passes at Higher level in the Scottish Leaving Certificate examinations in English, Mathematics, German, Science, and Dynamics.

After completing his studies at George Heriot's, Buchan entered the University of Edinburgh, matriculating in October 1922 when he entered the Faculty of Pure Science. He was awarded a B.Sc. (Pure) with First Class Honours from Edinburgh on 20 July 1926 and became a mathematics teacher at Gillespie's School, Edinburgh.

After working between 1930 to 1935 as a teacher at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, Buchan then became Principal Teacher of Mathematics at James Gillespie's High School for Girls, Edinburgh. He continued to have strong research interests in mathematics and, in 1939, he submitted his thesis Linear Combination of Data with Least Error of Differences to the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a Ph.D. on 30 June of that year. His thesis advisor at Edinburgh was Alexander Aitken.

During World War II Buchan was Squadron Leader and Commandant in the Air Training Corps in Scotland. His final appointment was as Principal Lecturer in Mathematics at Moray House College of Education, Edinburgh. He represented Scotland in the Emergency Scheme for the Training of Teachers in India. For his services he was awarded the M.B.E.

Alexander Buchan was a member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, joining in February 1927. He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 4 March 1940, his proposers being Sir Edmund T Whittaker, Alexander Craig Aitken, David Gibb, Robert Schlapp.
An obituary, written by Douglas M Mcintosh, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1977, pages 27-28.
We give a version of this obituary at THIS LINK.

Finally we note Buchan's association with Scottish Freemasonry. He was Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1948 to 1971. The report of his appointment contains a few more details of his life:

New Grand Secretary Elected

At a quarterly meeting of the Grand Lodge of Scotland held in Freemasons' Hall, Edinburgh, yesterday (Thursday 5 February 1948) - the Grand Master Mason, the Earl of Galloway, presiding - Mr Alexander Fairley Buchan, M.B.E., B.Sc. Ph.D., F.R.S.E.. was elected Grand Secretary in succession to Dr W King Gillies, who was appointed in 1941 to serve for the period of the war and whose resignation was accepted with regret last year.

Dr Buchan, who is 42 years of age, was formerly principal master of mathematics in James Gillespie's High School, and since then principal lecturer in mathematics and Master of Method in Moray House Training College, Edinburgh. During the recent war he was first employed in connection with the Children's Overseas Reception Board and supervised and accompanied 100 children to Canada in 1940. He served in the Royal Air Force for three years, with the rank of Squadron Leader. As Senior Administrative Staff Officer to the A.T.C. Commandant in Scotland he was responsible for the administration and training of all units in Scotland. The Scottish Education Department sent him to India to represent Scotland under the Emergency Scheme for the training of teachers.

The Grand Secretaryship to which Dr Buchan has been elected is a full-time salaried appointment. At the present time Dr Buchan is Master of one of the oldest Lodges in existence, Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, Edinburgh.

Immediately following his election. Dr Buchan was installed in office by the Grand Master Mason.

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

List of References (4 books/articles)

Mathematicians born in the same country

Additional Material in MacTutor

  1. Obituary: RSE

Honours awarded to Alexander Buchan
(Click below for those honoured in this way)
1. Lecturer at the EMS 
2. Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh  Elected 1940

Other Web sites
  1. Mathematical Genealogy Project

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JOC/EFR November 2007
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School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland

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