Archibald Milne

Born: 30 April 1875 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 19 September 1958 in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Archibald Milne's father was Archibald Milne (born Edinburgh about 1850) who was an upholsterer. His mother was Lilias Milne (born Edinburgh about 1851). He had a younger sister Lilias (born about 1883).

Archibald Milne attended St James' Episcopal School, Broughton Street, Edinburgh. He took the Edinburgh University Preliminary Examination, passing Latin and Greek at the Lower level and English, Mathematics, and Dynamics at the Higher level in October 1894, and then Higher Latin in April 1895. He was an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh where he first matriculated in October 1894 after having passed the Preliminary Examination. Between 1894 and 1897 he took courses in English, Latin, Education, Mathematics, and Natural Philosophy at the Ordinary level. He then studied Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Honours level from October 1898 to April 1899. He graduated with an M.A. with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in July 1899.

He won medals in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry. He graduated with an M.A. with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in 1899, then continued his studies, being awarded a B.Sc. with distinction in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Geology in 1901. In 1910, he was awarded a D.Sc. by the University of Edinburgh for his thesis The Confluent Hvpergeometric Function.

Milne was appointed to the Church of Scotland Training College in Edinburgh in 1899, becoming a Mathematical Lecturer there in 1903. The College became the Provincial Teachers Training College in 1907 and Milne became the Head of the Department of Mathematics. In 1925 he was appointed as Depute Director of Studies of the College.

In 1929 Milne gave an address at James Gillespie's Commercial Institute. Here is a report of his address:-


"It is now possible to obtain a complete free education from the infant school where all learn the interesting fact that a cat sat on a mat - right up to the University, with its many faculties and its numerous degrees." So said Dr Archibald Milne in an address at the formal closing concert of James Gillespie's Commercial Institute, held in the School Hall, Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh, last night (Wednesday 20 March 1929). Mr W Hamilton Gray presided over a large audience.

It seemed to him, said Dr Milne, that the continuation class system fulfilled two well-defined functions. In those modern days there were many walks of life, and it was one of the great aims of education to ensure that none of them were blind alleys, and that each one led to somewhere. Then came the statement mentioned above. Continuing, Dr Milne said that the very fact that they now had such a complete course of free education had brought about a demand that it should be turned to use. Where formerly a businessman would engage a boy, largely as the result of a personal interview, he now not infrequently demanded of him that he should show a measure of scholastic success. In the University, where at one time admission was gained by the payment of fees before anyone could go forward to a degree, the entrant must now pass a preliminary examination. For various reasons, many pupils had had to leave school before completing their education, and the first function of such a college as that was to provide them with the opportunity of making up the incompleteness of their school education. Opportunity was like a hat in a gust of wind. One must grasp it at once or it would be lost. Pupils attending continuation classes might enter upon courses for all the various examinations - preliminary, law, commercial, industrial - in fact, for a veritable league of examinations.

Then there was the second function of providing classes of a purely cultural nature, where the activity of preparation for examinations was replaced by the reading for knowledge's sake. It was doubtless true that the day had passed when Latin and Greek quotations were used in speeches in the House of Commons, but he hoped that they would never come to the day when they might doubt the words of Bacon:- "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."

Milne remained at Moray House Teachers Training College until he retired in 1940. The following appreciation of his work for the College appeared in The Scotsman on his retiral:-
Educational News
Retirement from Moray House

On the eve of his retirement owing to the age limit, Dr Archibald Milne, Depute-Director of Studies at Moray House Training-College, was yesterday presented by his colleagues with a handsome token of their esteem. Professor Godfrey H Thomson, in making the presentation, referred to his brilliant academic career and very long association with the Training of Teachers. Medallist in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, and holder of the Donald Fraser Bursary in Natural Philosophy and of the John Edward Baxter Scholarship in Mathematics, Dr Milne in 1899 took his M.A. with First-Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and in 1901 his B.Sc. with distinction in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Geology. In 1905 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 1910 was awarded the degree of D.Sc. for the thesis "The Confluent Hvpergeometric Function".

Before this, he had begun his life's work when he was appointed in 1898, to the staff of the Church of Scotland Training College. In 1903 he became the Lecturer in Mathematics, and when, in 1907 the Church Training Colleges were transferred to the Provincial Committees for the Training of Teachers, he became head of the Mathematical Department at Moray House. In 1925 he was elected to the post of Depute-Director of Studies, which he is now vacating.


Thus his whole professional career has been devoted to the training of Scottish teachers. The many great changes he has witnessed and the experience he has gained through years of service along with his boundless sympathy, his constant demand for efficiency, his keen faculty to recognise essentials, and his accurate though rapid decisions have made him an ideal counsellor to whom students could always go for kindly and valuable advice.

Outside his own profession he is exceedingly well known. He has an extensive range of interests and great catholicity of taste. He is an original member of the Sir Walter Scott Club and of the Old Edinburgh Club, and a member of the Scottish Arts Club and the Society of Musicians. In Masonry, he is a Past Master of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No. 1 and had the distinction of occupying the chair for three years. Benevolent clubs like the Wagering Club know him well; and his gift for light verse has made him a prominent member of the Monks of St Giles. Last. but not least, he is a devoted churchman, and an elder of St Matthew's Church, Morningside.

Milne joined the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in December 1898, shortly after graduating with his first degree. He read papers at meetings of the Society such as Notes on the equation of the parabolic cylinder on Friday 9 January 1914, The Conformal Representation of the Quotient of two Bessel Functions on 24 January 1916, and Note on the Peano-Baker method of solving linear differential equations on 11 February 1916. The Society honoured him with election as president for session 1923-24. He also served the Society in a number of other roles such as editor of the Proceedings, a task he had taken on before becoming president yet he continued during his presidency.

He was also elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 23 January 1905, his proposers being George Chrystal, James Geikie, Simon Somerville Laurie, Alexander Morgan.

An obituary, written by J R Peddie, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1959/1960, pages 92-93.
We give a version of this obituary at THIS LINK.

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

A Reference (One book/article)

Mathematicians born in the same country

Additional Material in MacTutor

  1. Papers in the Proceedings and Notes of the EMS
  2. Obituary: RSE

Honours awarded to Archibald Milne
(Click below for those honoured in this way)
1. Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh  Elected 1905
2. EMS President 1923

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JOC/EFR November 2007
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University of St Andrews, Scotland

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