Department of Applied Physics

Scope and Content

Laboratory equipment catalogues 1925-1961.

Administrative / Biographical History

The teaching and study of Physics in Glasgow University dates back to 1577  , when the University's new charter, the Nova Erectio, laid down the four subjects qualifying for the Master of Arts (Physics, Greek, Logic, Ethics). At that time, the scope of Physics also included pure mathematics, astronomy and geography. Under the Nova Erectio the teaching of Moral Philosophy, Logic, and Natural Philosophy was shared among the Regents. When the Regenting System was discontinued in 1727  , Robert Dick ( 1727-1751  ) became the first Professor of Natural Philosophy. His administration was the starting point for serious scientific achievement, exemplified by the acquisition of a complete apparatus for electrical experiments in 1749  . The new opportunities attracted scientists such as James Watt , who perfected his steam engine in a room of the Natural Philosophy Department.

Other notable occupants of the Chair of Natural Philosophy included John Anderson ( 1757-1796  ) and William Thomson , later Lord Kelvin ( 1846-1899  ). A full list of the University's professors from 1451  to 2001  can be found at  . In 1893  the Chair of Natural Philosophy was transferred to the new Faculty of Science.

In 1920  an independent Department of Applied Physics was created with the founding of the Cargill Chair of Applied Physics, endowed by the gift of Sir John Cargill , Director of the Burmah Oil Company . James Gordon Gray ( 1920-1935  ) was the first Professor of Applied Physics. Two lecturers transferred from the Department of Natural Philosophy to the new department, and shortly afterwards both departments expanded to five members of staff each. The Department of Applied Physics provided services courses for students of engineering, naval architecture, architecture, applied chemistry, metallurgy, pharmacy, agriculture, public health, and medicine which had previously been provided by the Department of Natural Philosophy.

By 1925  both departments were operating independently of each other and with little interaction, despite occupying the same building. In 1945  the Cargill Chair of Applied Physics was renamed the Cargill Chair of Natural Philosophy, and in 1948  the Department of Applied Physics was discontinued, with the University Court assigning it to Theoretical Physics within the Department of Natural Philosophy. The first appointment to the Cargill Chair of Natural Philosophy under these new conditions was Sir John Currie Gunn ( 1949-1982  ).

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Additional Information

University of Glasgow

Subfonds level description compiled by Natalie Milne, archives assistant, January 2002  and John O'Brien, archives assistant, October 2002  .