James Irvine (chemist)

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Sir James Irvine
James Colquhoun Irvine.jpg
Born 9 May 1877
Died 12 June 1952(1952-06-12) (aged 75)
Nationality Scottish
Fields Organic chemistry
Institutions University of St Andrews
Notable awards Davy Medal (1925)
Willard Gibbs Award (1926)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1929)

Sir James Colquhoun Irvine KBE FRS[1] FRSE FEIS (9 May 1877 – 12 June 1952) was a Scottish organic chemist and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews from 1921 until his death. As a research chemist, Irvine worked on the application of methylation techniques to carbohydrates, and isolated the first methylated sugars, trimethyl and tetramethyl glucose.[2][3]

Irvine was born in Glasgow to factory-owner John Irvine and Mary Paton Colquhoun, and educated at Allan Glen's School.[4] He studied at the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, before taking a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of St Andrews. From there, he went to the University of Leipzig, where he studied for a Ph.D. under Ostwald and Wislicenus. Returning to St Andrews, he was awarded a Doctor of Science degree, and taught Chemistry there. He was appointed Professor of Chemistry in 1909 and Dean of Science in 1912. In 1921, he was appointed Principal. His tenure saw the renovation and restoration of both buildings and traditions, and his works are still talked of today. His commitments spanned further than the University, into higher education in Britain and the colonies. He also served as acting Principal of University College Dundee.[5]

He was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1917 and a Fellow of The Royal Society of London in 1918. He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge, Columbia, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, McGill, Oxford, Princeton, Toronto, Wales and Yale.


  1. ^ Read, John (1953). "James Colquhoun Irvine. 1877-1952". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 8 (22): 458. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1953.0011. JSTOR 769223.  edit
  2. ^ Hirst, E. L. (1953). "James Colquhoun Irvine, 1877-1952". Advances in carbohydrate chemistry 8: xi–xvii. doi:10.1016/S0096-5332(08)60096-X. PMID 13138381.  edit
  3. ^ Read, J. (1952). "Sir James Irvine, K.B.E., F.R.S". Nature 170 (4314): 13–14. doi:10.1038/170013a0. PMID 14957005.  edit
  4. ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF) I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved September 25, 2010. 
  5. ^ Shafe, Michael (1982). University Education in Dundee 1881-1981: A Pictorial History. Dundee: University of Dundee. p. 204. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir John Herkless
Principal of University of St Andrews
1921 – 1952
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Malcolm Knox
Preceded by
John Yule Mackay
Principal of University College Dundee
1930 – 1939
Succeeded by
Angus Robertson Fulton (interim)