Alexander Hill (academic)

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Professor Alexander Hill OBE, MRCS, FRCS MA MD (1856 - 28 February 1929) was a medical doctor and professor who was Master of Downing College, Cambridge from 1888-1907 and Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1897-1899. He was Principal of Southampton University College from 1912-1920.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

He was born at Loughton, Essex, England. He attended University College School in Hampstead and then Downing College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1877 with first class honours in the Natural Science Tripos after which he graduated MD.[1][2]

Career[edit]

After gaining experience at St Bartholomew's Hospital he was Huntarian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons from 1884-1885. In 1880 he became a Fellow of Downing College and a lecturer and teacher of histology and anatomy. He was Master of Downing College from 1888-1907 and Vice-Chancellor of the university from 1897-1899. Hill was appointed a commissioner for the Treasury in 1901 to report on universities and colleges. In 1902 he carried out an inspection of Southampton University College for the University Commission with a colleague, with a further inspection in 1907. This followed the Education Act of 1902.[3] The commissioners found insufficient money for local student accommodation; poor entry criteria which were well below normal university entry standards; teaching not up to university standard; and poor buildings not up to university teaching standards. With the threat of failing to continue with university college status, the financial situation was improved with local money from Southampton Borough Council and Hampshire County Council. Although in retirement, and with some hesitation, Hill was persuaded to undertake the rallying of a badly shaken college and building it into a university. In 1912 Hill accepted the position of Principal and took office in January 1913.[2]

In a short period Hill changed the whole situation and won the confidence of staff, students and college council. New appointments and expansion into new fields, including Economics backed with an external London University BSc, Pharmaceuticals, Civil and Mechanical Engineering and also Architecture and building. For improved accommodation a lease was taken out on Highfield Hall, a former country house overlooking Southampton Common, but only for a limited number of staff and students. Hill and his family also occupied a house on the site.[2]

In spring 1914, plans were made for a larger Hall of Residence. In early summer an arts block with 28 large and many smaller lecture rooms and a connecting block for biology, chemistry, physics and engineering opened on 20 June. Then, eight days later, the First World War began after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Serajevo with profound implications for the future of the university. The war prevented the move from Hartley College to Highfield campus for five years and disrupted Hills plans. The new buildings were given over to the War Office for use as a hospital, as was Highfield Hall for the Red Cross. During the war Hill acted as Medical Officer to the Red Cross hopsital and made channel crossings on hospital ships tending to the wounded. Student numbers and finances suffered severely. It was 1919-1920 when the War Office had finally moved out and the new buildings could be occupied at last and Highfield Hall re-occupied and the move to the Highfield campus made, after which Hill resigned.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1878 he married Emma Woodward and they had a son and daughter. He died at Southampton; his wife survived him.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Lloyd Birkbeck
Master of Downing College, Cambridge
1888-1907
Succeeded by
Frederick Howard Marsh
Preceded by
Charles Smith
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
1897-1899
Succeeded by
William Chawner
Preceded by
Spencer Richardson
Principal of Southampton University College
1912 - 1920
Succeeded by
Thomas Tudor Loveday