Raymond Keiller Butchart, B.Sc., Ph.D.

by J E A Steggall

Raymond Keiller Butchart, the only son of the late R K Butchart of Dundee, was born in 1888. After his early training in the Morgan Academy and in the Dundee High School he proceeded to University College, Dundee, in the University of St Andrews, where he graduated B.Sc. in 1913.

He then carried on some post-graduate work, and acted as student-assistant in mathematics until December 1914, when he was offered an appointment at Wilson College, Bombay, almost at the moment when a Commission as Lieutenant in the 14th Royal Scots was also within his reach. He consulted me, and all that I could do, without urging him in any direction, was to say, as I had already said to others, that in the country's need every not incapacitated man should offer himself to some branch of the services for national defence; and that no such man, if he were spared, would be neglected by his fellow-countrymen when he returned to his native land.

Without hesitation he accepted the Commission and was trained at the Stobs Camp. In due course he went out and did good service as Brigade Signalling Officer.

Towards the end of the War he was very dangerously wounded on the open field. His leg had to be amputated well above the knee. He was sent home to one of the great West End mansions that had been placed by their owners at the disposal of the authorities as military hospitals.

There I found him lying, and, as by a fortunate chance the assistant in the mathematical department was resigning in order to qualify for medical work, I was able to offer Captain Butchart the vacant post. He accepted it, and for nine years discharged its duties with remarkable fidelity. In his spare time he continued his researches, and in July 1921 they gained for him the Ph.D. of his university.

In the same year he married Jean Ainslie Broome, daughter of the late W W Broome of Bo'ness.

By this time the increasing number of students and of classes had made a junior assistant necessary, and Dr Butchart became Senior Assistant and University Lecturer.

His work was always carefully prepared: and his interest in it never flagged. He met his serious disability in a fine spirit. The short daily walk to and from his house, up and down an incline to the tramway line that took him to and from the College, must have been a serious strain upon his body and his nerves; his friends were amazed at his quiet endurance of a daily exertion that, especially in winter, gave obvious proof of its severity.

His administrative gifts were of a high order; he was the trusted adviser of the students as Treasurer of their Union, as well as in many other capacities. He was respected and loved by all the members of the College.

Perhaps I may be permitted to say that his devotion to the University was only equalled by his loyalty to his chief. During his long service his conscientious work and his discriminating counsel were of inestimable value; the spirit of happiness and goodwill that he diffused throughout the department rendered its administration a most happy duty.

In March 1928 Dr Butchart accepted the Professorship of Mathematics at the Raffles College in Singapore. His accounts of his work there were most interesting. He was extremely happy, and the climate, about which his friends had felt some anxiety, seemed to suit him. While starting and developing his Department he won the esteem and affection of all who knew him; his students gave him and his wife some charming gifts when he set sail for his first leave. Tired with an arduous session's work he was looking forward, as we in University College were looking forward, to his return to Scotland. He left Singapore on 24th March, and died on 30th March from malaria. He was buried at sea 65 miles south-east of Colombo.

To his former colleagues and students in Dundee he leaves a memory whose fragrance will long persist in their hearts.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1915.

Raymond Keiller Butchart was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 1 February 1915, his proposers being William Peddie, Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Peter Comrie, Sir Ernest M Wedderburn. This obituary, written by J E A Steggall, appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Volume 51 (1930-31), 200-201.