John Todd Morrison

Born: 1863 in Muthill, Perthshire, Scotland
Died: 1944 in Stellenbosch, Cape Colony, South Africa

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John Morrison's father was James Morrison (born in Muthill, Perthshire about 1835) who was a master shoemaker employing 6 men and 5 boys. His mother was Mary Todd was (born in Alva, Clackmannan about 1830). John Morrison had an older brother Andrew (born about 1861) and three younger siblings: James (born about 1865), Annie (born about 1868) and William (born about 1869).

John Morrison began his schooling in Perthshire at Muthill F.C. School, spending seven years at this school, but attended George Watson's College, Edinburgh, for three years before matriculating at the University of Edinburgh. In fact his school career was outstanding and he was dux of George Watson's in 1878 at the age of fifteen. His undergraduate career at university was of the same exceptional standard and he won the Neil Arnott Prize and was Vans Dunlop Scholar in Physics. He was awarded an M.A. in 1883 and a B.Sc. in 1888.

Morrison left Edinburgh University before completing his B.Sc., taking up a position in physics at Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, in 1886. He held this post for five years until 1891 when he went to South Africa on being appointed Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Victoria College, Stellenbosch (later incorporated with the University of Stellenbosch). In 1901, in conjunction with John Beattie, Morrison began the study of the magnetic elements as recorded at the Cape of Good Hope, and they were led on to their magnetic survey of South Africa. A report of their observations up to 1908 was published in 1909 by the Cambridge University Press for the Royal Society, and a report of their observations up to 1910 was published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1912. Morrison retired in 1934.

The Edinburgh Mathematical Society was founded in February 1883 and Morrison was one of the founder members although he was only an Edinburgh undergraduate at the time. From 1888 he served a spell on the Committee. He continued to be a member of the Society after moving to South Africa and remained a member throughout his career. He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 7 March 1892, his proposers being Peter Guthrie Tait, Alexander Crum Brown, Alexander Buchan, Cargill Gilston Knott.

An obituary, written by Alexander Brown, appears in the Royal Society of Edinburgh Year Book 1945, page 20.
We give a version of this obituary at THIS LINK.

Stellenbosch University awards the John Todd Morrison Research Medal, which was donated by Mrs J T Morrison, John Todd Morrison's wife. A solid silver, gold-plated medal is presented annually to the best student who obtains the M.Sc. degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics cum laude.

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

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Mathematicians born in the same country

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  1. Obituary: RSE

Honours awarded to John Morrison
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1. EMS Founder Member 1883

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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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