James McGill Scotland Canada

Biography of James McGill

James McGill
James McGill

James McGill, Principal Founder of McGill University (1821), was an Arts student at the University of Glasgow in 1756.

He was born at Glasgow on 6 October 1744, but went to Canada before the American Revolution after receiving his education at the University.

McGill was initially engaged in the north-west fur trade, before becoming a merchant in Montreal in partnership with his brother Andrew. There he became known as the “Richest man in Montreal”.

He was a Member of the Lower Canadian Parliament for West Montreal, and afterwards a Member of the Legislative and Executive Councils. He served as Lieutenant-Colonel, subsequently Colonel, of the Montreal City Militia, and Brigadier-General in 1812.

McGill died at Montreal on 19 December 1813. In his will, he bequeathed £10,000 and his forty-six acre Burnside Place estate to the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning with the condition that with his bequest a university was to be created in his name and established within ten years of his death.


Other Online Resources

Archival Materials

  • GUA26678 Glasgow University matriculation album 1756-1809
  • W Innes Addison, The Matriculation Albums of the University of Glasgow from 1728 to 1858 (Glasgow, 1913)


James McGill
Born 6 October 1744.
Died 19 December 1813.
GU Degree: Arts, 1756;
University Link: Student
Occupation categories: merchants; politicians
English snippet: Principal Founder of McGill University
Record last updated: 22nd Apr 2016

Country Associations

Scotland Scotland, Glasgow
Place of Birth

Canada Canada, Montreal
Place of Death

University Connections

University Roles

  • Student