Biographical Notes on James Ballantyne Hannay accumulated by Robert H S Robertson

Scope and Content

Hannay biographica: correspondence, notes and miscellaneous papers relating to research work into diamonds and other minerals carried out by James Ballantyne Hannay, Sir Robert Robertson, KBE, FRS, and others; research into the life and work of James Ballantyne Hannay, mainly by Robert HS Robertson, Dr Einar P Flint and James Revie; publications of James Ballantyne Hannay; papers and correspondence relating to the Hannay divorce and to Mrs Caroline Johnston or Hannay's Trust; papers and correspondence relating to James Ballantyne Hannay's business and legal affairs; papers and correspondence relating to Alexander Hannay's Trust and to property owned by Alexander Hannay including the Prince of Wales Theatre - rebuilt as the Grand Theatre - Cowcaddens, Glasgow; miscellaneous papers and newspaper articles; photographs and plans 1663 and 1842-1987.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Ballantyne Hannay was born in Glasgow in 1855, the son of Alexander Hannay, portioner, who had property in Helensburgh and who owned the Prince of Wales Theatre and the Grand Theatre in Cowcaddens, Glasgow. James Hannay became a chemist and a prolific innovator, publishing many scientific papers and taking out over seventy patents in Britain, Europe and the USA in addition to forming his own patents company in Glasgow. His best known and most controversial work concerns his claim, made in 1880, to have synthesised diamonds. This claim has been the subject of much subsequent debate and investigation, and findings remain inconclusive. In later years Hannay turned from scientific investigation to explore aspects of the origin and development of religion and he published a number of works critical of the Hebrew Scriptures. James Ballantyne Hannay died in 1931.

The collection was gifted to the University of Dundee by Robert H.S. Robertson, of Pitlochry, the son of Sir Robert Robertson, KBE, FRS (1869-1949). Sir Robert was himself a renowned chemist and was the first person to establish that two types of natural diamond existed. He was acquainted with James Hannay's sister, Lady Dugald Clerk, and carried out his own researches into the validity of Hannay's claim to have synthesised diamonds. Robert HS Robertson has also carried out extensive research into the life and work of James Hannay and for many years he conducted detailed correspondence with Dr Einar P. Flint, of Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A., and later also with James Revie, of East Kilbride, with the aim of producing an, as yet incomplete, biography of James Hannay.


Records are arranged chronologically within series.

Access Information

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

The records were deposited by Robert H S Robertson in 1986 (AccM/225, AccM/226).


Fonds level description compiled by Sarah Chubb, Archives Hub Project Archivist, January 2002.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list. Subject source lists and databases are also available.

Alternative Form Available

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Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges are made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply.


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Related Material

MS 50 Papers of Sir Robert Robertson

Additional Information

The material is original.