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Maclaurin, Richard C. (Richard Cockburn), 1870-1920



  • Existence: 1870 June 5 - 1920 January 15

Biographical Note

Richard Cockburn Maclaurin, 1870-1920, was a Scottish-born educator, mathematical physicist, and was the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1909-1920. Raised in New Zealand, Maclaurin was educated in England, where he attended the University of Cambridge, achieving his BA and MS each in Mathematics in 1895 and 1896, respectively [1].

The following year, in 1897, he was awarded the York Prize, the highest honor in the field for a thesis on The Title to Reality. Maclaurin was considered an expert in two different subjects, physics and law [1].

In 1898, Maclaurin returned to New Zealand, becoming the chair of Mathematics at Victoria College, Wellington. There he began research in Mathematical Physics, specifically in the field of Physical Optics, in which he published his treatise Theory of Light. From this work, he was awarded his Doctorate of Science in 1908 from the University of Cambridge. Maclaurin was also instrumental in establishing the Law School at Cambridge, and served as the school's Dean from 1905-1907 [2].

In 1907, Maclaurin would relocate himself and his family to New York, where he was hired as Columbia University's Chair of Mathematical Physics [2]. Soon afterward, he would be chosen to become the President of MIT, officially taking office in January of 1909.

As MIT President, Maclaurin is best known for his efforts overseeing the move of the Institute from Boston to Cambridge in 1916 [1]. During the first World War, he was also appointed Educational Director of the Student Army Training Corps under the War Plans Division of the General Staff [2].

In 1904, Maclaurin married Alice Young of Auckland, in which they shared two sons together, William Rupert Maclaurin and Colin Maclaurin [2].

Richard Cockburn Maclaurin died on January 15, 1920 of pneumonia in Cambridge, MA.

1. "RICHARD COCKBURN MACLAURIN, 1870-1920" MIT Libraries (October 2004) 2. H.M Goodwin, "Richard Cockburn Maclaurin (1870-1920)" American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 69, No. 13 (February 1935)


Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Collection on the Celebration of the Move of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from Boston to Cambridge

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0343

The Dedication Reunion Committee was formed to oversee the celebrations for the dedication of MIT’s new Cambridge campus, which took place on June 12, 13, and 14, 1916. The committee was divided into over twenty subcommittees responsible for an elaborate set of festivities. Several subcommittees are represented in the collection, including the Undergraduate Reunion Committee and the Technology Pageant Committee, whose records form a major portion of the collection.

Dates: 1916 - 1920; Majority of material found in 1916 - 1916

Dugald C. Jackson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0005
Abstract The collection documents the career of Dugald C. Jackson, a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1907 to 1935. Correspondence, reports, and other materials document Jackson's years as head of the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering, his innovations in the department and the undergraduate curriculum, the establishment of a cooperative education program (course 6-A), and his work on MIT committees. His work as a consulting engineer and inventor is...
Dates: 1878 - 1952

John Ripley Freeman papers

Identifier: MC-0051
Abstract The collection documents the activities of John Ripley Freeman, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later a member of the MIT Corporation. Freeman worked as a consulting engineer for almost sixty years, 1876-1932. Project files containing correspondence, photographs, drafts and published reports, maps, diaries, computation and data, clippings, reprints and transcripts of testimony record his work on over 100 projects in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and...
Dates: Bulk, 1876-1932 1827-1952; Majority of material found within 1876 - 1932

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Inaugural Committee records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0036
Scope and Contents of the Collection The collection consists of records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) president inaugural committees since 1900. The records are primarily documents with some photographs and memorabilia. The inaugurations of Henry Pritchett, Richard Maclaurin, Ernest F. Nichols, and Samuel Wesley Stratton are documented in notebooks which contain minutes of committee and subcommittee meetings and copies of inaugural addresses. The inaugurations of James R. Killian, Julius A. Stratton,...
Dates: 1900 - 2005

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0013
Abstract The collection documents the administration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the responsibilities and activities of the Institute's presidents between 1897 and 1930. This was a period of enormous growth and development of the Institute, which was chartered in 1861 and graduated its first class of undergraduates in 1868. There is correspondence about the proposed merger with Harvard University in 1904 and a proposed alliance in 1911. The purchase of land, the planning...
Dates: 1883 - 1941; Majority of material found within 1897 - 1931

Richard C. Maclaurin papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0588
Scope and Contents

The collection of Richard C. Maclaurin papers consists mainly of Maclaurin’s notebooks from St. John’s College, Cambridge, 1892-1894. Included are copies of his Yorke Prize essay, the Tripos Prize essay, and the lecture notes on light, published in 1909 by Columbia University Press.

Dates: 1892 - 1908