Collection UR-SF 44 - James Alfred Ewing, Professor of Engineering, University College, Dundee

Identity area

Reference code

UR-SF 44


James Alfred Ewing, Professor of Engineering, University College, Dundee


  • 1884-1954 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.1 linear metres

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

James Alfred Ewing was born in Dundee in 1855. He was the youngest of the three sons of the minister of St Andrew's Free Church. He received his schooling in the city at West End Academy and Dundee High School before obtaining a scholarship to study for a degree in engineering at Edinburgh University. In 1878 he became Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics at the newly established University of Tokyo. While in Japan Ewing undertook research into earthquakes and devised new types of seismometer. He also studied magnetism and gave the name to the phenomenon of hysteresis. He was the first professor of Mechanical Engineering at University College, Dundee, a post he held from 1883 until 1890. Appalled by the living conditions of the working classes in Dundee, especially compared to those in Japan, he became involved in improving these conditions, particularly the sewage system. In 1890 he was appointed Professor of Mechanism and Applied Mechanics at Cambridge University. It was during this period The Steam Engine and other Heat Engines was published. Ewing left Cambridge in 1903 to become Director of Naval Education at the Admiralty in Greenwich, a position he held until 1917. He was knighted in 1911. At the outbreak of the First World War Ewing agreed to become head of "Room 40", a specialist unit involved in deciphering German coded naval messages. In May 1916 Ewing was appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh University, and under his leadership the institution subsequently went through unprecedented expansion. He retired in 1929 and died in 1935.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Letters written by Ewing to Mr W.R Lindsay first President of the Dundee Institute of Engineers 1884-1887. These refer to the Baxter Bequest, his "Steam Engine" article, various items of news about University College, Dundee, and the visit of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers to the city in 1887; Pamphlets by, or relating to, Sir James Alfred Ewing 1889-1954


Not expected

System of arrangement

Usually chronological within series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act (2018), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, 2018) and any other relevant legislation or restrictions. Clinical information is closed for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges may be made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply; please check with the Duty Archivist.

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Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

The records are on paper

Finding aids

Descriptive list. Subject source lists and databases are also available.

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Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Copies are held by the Department of Electronic Engineering and Physics.

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Description control area

Description identifier

UR-SF 44

Rules and/or conventions used

Description compiled in line with the following standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description; International Council on Archives, ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997



Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



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