Sir James Johnston Dobbie Scotland Wales

Biography of Sir James Johnston Dobbie

James Johnston Dobbie
James Johnston Dobbie

James Johnston Dobbie graduated MA from the University of Glasgow in 1875 and LLD in 1908. He was a prominent chemist known for his work in the isolation, chemical structure, and physical properties of alkaloids.

Dobbie was born in the east end of Glasgow on August 4 1852, son of the scientific and nautical instrument maker James Johnston Dobbie. He was educated at Glasgow High School before moving onto study for an arts degree at the University of Glasgow aged 17. Dobbie took classes in Philosophy, Classics, English Literature, Mathematics, and Natural Science. He was a keen student and won numerous prizes in Greek and English Literature during his time here. After graduating MA in 1875, he moved to the University of Edinburgh to study for a BSc which he completed in 1878. He also gained his DSc at the University of Edinburgh in 1879 for his Thesis on Quinine. Dobbie worked closely with Sir William Ramsay , a fellow Glasgow alumnus, on the structure of alkaloids.

In 1884 Dobbie was appointed as the first head of chemistry at Bangor University. A collection of testimonials in favour of his appointmentcan be found in special collections. Dobbie played a key role in setting up the department in north Wales. During this time, he married Violet Chilton in 1887. After his professorship, he changed career paths and took the role as Director of the Royal Scottish Museum in 1903, greatly extending the collection of Egyptian antiquities and well as the engineering collection. Soon after being awarded an LLD by the University of Glasgow in 1908, he was appointed by the Treasury as Principle of the Government Laboratory in 1909, before becoming Government Chemist in 1911. He was awarded a knighthood in 1915 for his services to chemistry. Dobbie’s impressive career saw him hold numerous notable positions, including President of the Chemical Society and President of the Institute of Chemistry. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1904.

James Johnston Dobbie passed away on June 19 1924 following a short illness. He was laid to rest in Largs cemetery.


Archival Materials


Sir James Johnston Dobbie
GU Degrees: MA, 1875; LLD, 1908;
University Link: Graduate
Occupation categories: chemists; professors
Record last updated: 20th Oct 2016

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