Simon Gavin George MacDonald (known as Gavin) was born in Beauly, Inverness-shire, on 5 September 1923, but his parents moved to Edinburgh at the end of his first year. He was educated at Craiglockhart Primary and at George Heriot’s (having been first in the school’s bursary competition). There he thrived, sweeping many year prizes and going on to be Dux of the School as well as Dux of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. As well as being a Prefect, in a sign of a move he was soon to make, he was the First Flight Sgt of the Air Training Corps. Read more about Gavin MacDonald

One of the most distinguished Anglican theologians of his generation, The Revd. Canon Professor John Webster served both church and academy internationally, and played a substantial role in the revitalization of the discipline of systematic theology.

Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, he was brought up in West Yorkshire. Educated at Bradford Grammar School, he specialized in languages and literature, going up to Clare College, Cambridge as an Open Scholar in 1974. He read English initially but switched to Theology at the end of his first year. An outstanding student, he graduated with a First and the Burney Prize and proceeded to PhD study at Clare as Beck Exhibitioner. His doctoral research was on the demanding work of the German theologian, Eberhard Jüngel (b. 1934), whose repertoire, then little known in Britain, traversed New Testament studies, systematic theology, ethics, and the history of philosophy, with major debts to existentialist Lutheranism as well as to the work of the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth. Through Jüngel Webster moved on to extensive critical and constructive interpretation of Barth himself, becoming one of Barth’s foremost analysts in English. But it was as a theological thinker in his own right that Webster would shine. Read more about John Webster

Professor Helszajn will be remembered as an electrical engineer of great distinction and an internationally recognised authority in the field of microwave science. Through a lifetime of achievement, he attained global pre-eminence in this field as a highly innovative scientist, engineer and educator. He leaves a legacy of a comprehensive series of major engineering textbooks that alongside his sustained writings, experimental works and consultancies have advanced the principles of microwave engineering and influenced a generation of academic and industrial engineers in his discipline. Read more about Joseph Helszajn


William Mordue, better known as Bill by his friends and colleagues, was born in Stanley County Durham. The proud son of a Durham miner, he attended Stanley Grammar School, where he developed his interest in biology. Bill decided to pursue his academic interests at university and became the first member of his family to go on to higher education when he enrolled at the University of Sheffield in 1958. This was something both he and his family were immensely proud of, and as a result Bill had a lifelong empathy with students from working class backgrounds wanting to ensure that they had the same higher education opportunities as those who were more privileged. He read for a BSc in Zoology from 1958 to 1961 and continued his studies for a PhD at the same University from 1961 to 1964, investigating the hormonal control of egg development in the mealworm Tenebrio molitor under the supervision of Dr Ken Highnam. This was the beginning of his passion for entomology and insect physiology, which would become the main research thread of his career. He continued to develop his interests in insect physiology during a 3-year post-doctoral Fellowship, which he also held at the University of Sheffield from 1964 to 1967.  Read more

Alistair Watson grew up in Perthshire, attending Grandtully Primary School and later Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy, where he was School Captain and Joint Dux. With an aptitude for Maths and Science, he set his sights on studying Engineering at University, intending to become an aeronautical engineer, only to be told by his science teacher, “engineers are ten a penny; do pure science”. He followed this advice, “describing it as the only piece of career advice I ever got” by applying to Edinburgh and Glasgow to study Physics. He was drawn to Edinburgh University (partly because of his support for Hibernian FC) and accepted that offer, commencing his degree in 1960. After two years, he decided he preferred Maths to Physics and switched to a degree in Mathematical Sciences. During his third year, he had a choice between Numerical Analysis and Statistics. Having tried both for a while, he opted to continue with the numerical analysis option, covering topics including rounding errors, interpolation, orthogonal expansions, Fourier and Chebyshev series, finite differences, various difference operators, numerical integration, initial value problems for ordinary differential equations, iterative methods for solving equations, the power method for eigenvalue problems, and Gaussian elimination. He graduated in 1964 with a first-class Honours degree in Mathematical Sciences. Read more about Alistair Watson

Brian Glover Gowenlock, FRSE 1969, Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Department of Chemistry, Heriot-Watt University 1966 – 1987, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Heriot-Watt University 1969 – 1972 and 1987 – 1990 and Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Committee 1983 – 1985, was born on 9th February 1926 in Oldham, Lancashire. He was the younger son of Harry and Hilda Gowenlock and his father was an office worker at Platt’s Mill, Oldham.

A strong early influence was his maternal grandfather, a self-educated man, who instilled in Brian the love of learning. Brian was proud of his Lancastrian roots and retained traces of his Oldham accent to the end of his life.  Read more about Brian Gowenlock


Professor Ronald Drever was co-founder, with Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which in September 2015 made the first direct observation of gravitational waves. Seven months after Drever’s death Thorne and Weiss shared the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics for LIGO’s innovation and success. Ronald was born on 26 October 1931 in Bishopton, Renfrewshire. His father (George Douglas Drever) had, following distinguished Army service in WWI in Mesopotamia and the North-West Frontier, been awarded a medical scholarship. His GP training took him to Northumberland, where he met, and in 1929 married, Mary (Mollie) Matthews, following which he set up as a GP in Bishopton. Ronald started school at Glasgow Academy at the age of five in 1936. He hated school, largely due to a severe and persistent writing difficulty. However, he showed an early talent for creative design and construction, developing expertise in using Meccano, mirrors, magnets and electric motors. The outbreak of war in 1939 interrupted his education, and he transferred to the local school in Bishopton before returning to Glasgow Academy in 1943 (with his younger brother Ian). With the war still on, this involved the young boys travelling alone to and from Glasgow in the black-out, having to flash a tiny torch to stop the bus. Read more about Ron Drever