From the Archive: Sir James Irvine, The University’s Second Founder and Pioneering Carbohydrate Chemist

This post is based on an archive blog written in 2011 by guest blogger, Jo Rodgers, a former student and staff member, who reviewed our previous Sir James Irvine Exhibition! When thinking about the University’s long history (607 years long to be precise!) we often take time to think about those individuals who have had a resounding impact upon its future. One such individual is Sir James Colquhoun Irvine, who was Principal of St Andrews for over three decades – from 1920 to 1952.

Portrait of Sir James Colquhoun Irvine by Oswald H. J. Birley, 1933. Courtesy of the Museum of the University of St Andrews

Sir Irvine came from a fairly humble background, he was born in Glasgow on 9 May 1877, and was the son of John Irvine, a manufacturer of light iron castings, and Mary Paton Colquhoun, of highland descent. Irvine began his journey as a scientist when he entered the Royal Technical College (now Strathclyde University) at the age of sixteen, and in 1895 he attended at the University of St Andrews and worked under the notable twentieth-century Scottish chemist, and future friend and colleague, Professor Thomas Purdie. It was at one of Scotland’s oldest, and fairly unheard-of, Universities that Irvine acquired an enduring love for the coastal town and for the University which he would serve as a lecturer, professor, and principal for much of his life. Throughout Irvine’s education, he was influenced by several exceptional scientists. For example, even before he graduated at St Andrews, he was awarded an ‘1851 Exhibition scholarship’ in 1899 and attended the University of Leipzig, while working towards his PhD, he worked alongside notable German pioneers of science including Wilhelm Pfeffer and Wilhelm Ostwald.

However, it is during his career as a Chemist and lecturer at the University of St Andrews, that he made a name for himself. Some of the most striking discoveries Irvine made, alongside Purdie, was through his research into the complexities of sugar molecules. During the First World War, numerous University chemical laboratories across the UK were utilised by the government to produce chemicals for warfare. While working with a team of nearly one hundred staff at the St Andrews Chemical Laboratory, Irvine developed a pure medicinal sugar called Inulin.

Research Laboratory, the Irvine Building (the Old Chemistry Lab), taken 1907. Image Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library, ID 2012-12-16

To develop this drug, Irvine relied on natural sugar sources such as dahlia tubers and seaweed. In fact, Irvine made a national war-time request in several newspapers for dahlias, with many being transported by train to St Andrews station and then, with the assistance of local Boy Scouts, wheelbarrowed to the laboratories. This manufactured Inulin was then used to treat British troops suffering from fever and meningitis in the Balkans, saving thousands of lives. At the request of the Chemical Warfare Department, Irvine also assisted in analysing and developing a large-scale treatment for Mustard Gas, a terrifying chemical weapon used in trench warfare. Lastly, during wartime he oversaw the creation of Novocaine, a valuable anaesthetic for frontline surgeries.

A selection of sugar samples produced by Sir Irvine during his research into naturally-occurring sugars. Image courtesy of the Museum of the University of St Andrews.

His contributions to science did not end there however, during peacetime, Irvine continued to make significant contributions within the field of chemistry through his research on carbohydrates. Irvine enhanced our understanding of the ‘ring structures’ of carbohydrates, which in turn, helped to inform developments in biology such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. In recognition of his scientific achievements and his research in carbohydrate chemistry, Sir Irvine acquired a number of honours including: being elected a FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) in 1918, knighted in 1925, and being awarded a number of national and international medals, such as the ‘Longstaff medal’ of the Chemistry Society of London in 1933.

Lafayette Studio portrait of James Irvine in the St Andrews gown of his Doctor of Science degree which he was awarded in March 1903, this photo was taken c. 1911. Image courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library

During his long service as Principal, Sir Irvine oversaw extensive modernisation of the fairly outdated and financially limited University, earning him the appellation “St Andrews’ Second Founder”. First and foremost, Irvine focused on revitalising the University’s community and reestablishing it as a residential University. To the benefit of St Andrews, Irvine oversaw the expansion of student halls of residence, revived old University customs and traditions, improved many buildings and the accessibility of scientific equipment for research, and secured donations for the renovation of St Salvator’s Chapel and the restoration of St Leonard’s Chapel. These changes to the University attracted increasing numbers of students to St Andrews, in addition, when combined with his emphasis on the importance of both Carbohydrate and wider academic research, the University drew international acclaim. After Irvine’s death in 1952, he certainly left the institution with a legacy of excellence in research which endures to this day.

Some of the objects in the Museum’s collection provide a selection of fascinating insights into Irvine’s professional and personal life in St Andrews. The Wardlaw Museum holds over nine hundred sugar samples which attest to his extensive research on sugar molecules and his contributions to science. Meanwhile, photographs of him with his family, his wife Lady Mabel Irvine and their three children, illustrate the role which they played at the University. One especially evocative photograph shows Mabel Irvine and their daughter Felicity being cheered by then-rector of the University, J.M. Barrie in 1922. It seems clear that even during our sixth century as a University, we owe many thanks to this interesting and great man.

Photograph of Lady Mabel Irvine and their daughter, Felicity Irvine, being cheered by then Rector, J. M. Barrie in 1922. Image courtesy of the Special Collections of the University of St Andrews


From the Archive: Inspiration from the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History

The Bell Pettigrew Museum is one of several venues the Museum Collections Unit cares for. The museum first opened in 1912, and in 2011 one of our guest bloggers and University students, Gillian Carmoodie, explained why she thinks it’s still got all it’s charm almost 100 years later:

I first came to the Bell Pettigrew museum as a psychology student. I’d been getting through my first-year as a psychology undergraduate with reasonable ease but there was a hint of underlying frustration starting to build. For all my good intentions at the start of my degree, after only a few months, my attention was beginning to drift during lectures and I was struggling to motivate myself to complete work and meet various deadlines. It took only one visit to the Bell Pettigrew museum to change that.

The problem wasn’t that the psychology lectures were dull. Indeed, for the majority of the psychology classes, the complete opposite was true. It was all extremely interesting but I was somehow missing something. I was missing that magic spark of inspiration, the kind that kicks off an immediate visit to the library to get more on what’s just been discussed in the latest lecture or lab class.

Bird display at the Bell Pettigrew Museum

My first visit to the Bell Pettigrew museum was the conclusion to an appointment with Dr. Martin Milner. We had met for the first time earlier that morning to discuss how I might be able to enrol on a basic-level biology module, primarily to satisfy a need to be working through more module credits in-order to qualify for full-time funding. That morning I had told Martin about how my modules in psychology didn’t seem to be fulfilling my keen interest for a degree and not long after, perhaps in sensing a student on the cusp of a subject change, Martin introduced me to the Bell Pettigrew.

Upon going through the double-doored entrance for the first time, I was both astonished and humbled by what I saw. Glass-panels reaching from floor to ceiling spanned the whole length of the walls. Behind them, a vast and highly organised natural history collection lay awaiting a curious gaze and my wide-eyed surprise. Many specimens were contained within glass cylinders, carefully labelled with what the specimen was and who had collected the item – all intricately inscribed in beautiful and lavish inked hand-writing. In the centre of the museum, further cabinets stood containing fossils, bones and the equipment of biological days gone by. Reaching higher than the top of these central cabinets, an enormous cast of a Diplodocus’s femur (thigh bone), donated by Dunfermline’s famous Andrew Carnegie, demonstrated just how inconceivably large some of the extinct beings from past ages used to be. Huddled near this voluminous piece are the skeletons of a racehorse (called Eclipse), a carthorse, a camel and an ox.

One section of the large entomological display at the Museum

Despite the Bell Pettigrew’s limited size, the museum appeared to represent all the animal groups I could think of and seemed to contain many thousands of specimens. As we walked round the collection, Martin gave me a brief overview of the museum’s history. Even better, not only was the museum interesting in its current form but it also had a fascinating history and had received the attentions of several hard-working, influential biologists, each contributing to both its collections and success.

Eventually Martin decided to leave me to wander around the museum myself, encouraging me to consider a biology module or two. His invitation was not necessary – my mind had already decided, somewhere within the Bell Pettigrew, that studying some biology was a must. As I heard Martin’s footsteps disappear down the corridor, I continued on with my wandering. Wandering and discovering, finding hidden treasures within the displays.

I lost a further two hours in the Bell Pettigrew that morning, the pull of the exhibits making me forget the time. Morning turned into late afternoon and as I went to leave, I signed the guestbook. I wrote:

“21.01.08: This makes me feel like a kid discovering things. Absolutely amazing. Thank you.”

This first visit to the Bell Pettigrew museum was back in January 2008 and I’ve now been a Zoology honours student for just over 3 years. Within a day or two after my visit I had put in my request to be enrolled on the next Biology of Organisms module and a year later, having studied Psychology and Biology side-by-side, I switched schools and formally became a Zoology undergraduate. I’ve never regretted the decision – it was one of the best I have ever made. I liked psychology very much but I absolutely adore biology.

Displays and the study area in the Museum

During my time as a trainee zoologist, I’ve visited and studied and brought visitors to the Bell Pettigrew countless times over. The inspiration and wide-eyed wonder still hasn’t left me and from time to time, I’m still able to find a new pair of eyes looking back at me from within the cabinets.

Inspiration from the Bell Pettigrew often reaches me from beyond the museum itself. A quick glance through the glass-panels on the entrance doors, snatched on route to the next lecture or workshop, is usually enough to persuade me to give that dreaded lab report or unfinished essay another go later on in the day. The workspace located in the very centre of the museum has provided a quiet and inviting refuge to bring particularly difficult work and uninterrupted reading to on many occasions. Now as I approach my final undergraduate year at St. Andrews, the whole of the Bell Pettigrew will open up to become a workspace as I work on my final-year project. This will involve using some of the exhibits and creating my very own museum display within the Bell Pettigrew itself. As the summer draws to an end and a new term gets ever closer, I simply can’t wait to get started.

Words by Gillian Carmoodie

L’Ami du Peuple

Maddie DeFilippis – museum staff and soon-to-be-graduate!

Maddie DeFilippis is a soon-to-be-graduated student at the University. She has worked at the Museum since her first year, and is so excited to have been part of the transformation of it into the Wardlaw Museum. In her spare time, she loves to attend any type of event related to art or history! She has studied the French Revolution in French and History courses, and is excited to have written this wee post about one of the University’s most infamous honorary graduates, Jean-Paul Marat!

As the editor of the radical newspaper L’Ami du Peuple, Marat expressed some of his most controversial views. L’Ami du Peuple translates to ‘Friend of the People’, a popular sentiment during the French Revolution and a direct reference to the tripartite cry of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. Marat was a radical proponent of democracy, and his newspaper contributed to the ideological stirrings of the French Revolution.

L’Ami du Peuple, courtesy of a private lender.

Starting in 1789 (the widely accepted start-date of the French Revolution), Marat became the published advocate for many disenchanted French people as he decried the aristocracy and the monarchy. Freedom of the press was not a guarantee at the time, and so Marat’s physical safety was threatened. Although he was sentenced to prison and had to flee the country multiple times into exile, Marat was so popular that his fame provided him with relative security during some of the most turbulent times of the early Revolution. Indeed, many Parisians subscribed to his newspaper because of its dedication to the ‘société des patriotes’. Marat was a politician as well as a writer, and became a delegate of the National Convention in 1792, on a platform of the reformation of the government. As a prominent politician and a controversial published author, Marat made enemies, and one of them took matters into her own hands.

“The Death of Marat” by Jacques-Louis David © Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

Charlotte Corday was a supporter of a moderate republican group, which desired an end to the monarchy but disapproved of the Revolution’s fiery attitude and its deadly consequences. On the 13 July 1793, Corday gained access to Marat’s rooms, and stabbed him to death. She assassinated Marat because she blamed him for taking the Revolution in a more extreme direction that had led to the execution of thousands of people. Her actions, however, caused even more support to swell for Marat and what he stood for. In addition to the painting by Jacques-Louis David, which visually martyred Marat in a style similar to Michelangelo’s Pietà, parades were held in Paris celebrating the martyrs of the Revolution. Some have even called David’s work ‘The Pietà of the Revolution’, a testament to Marat’s effect on morale during the darkest days of the Revolution.

The Death of Marat © Philip Colbert 2020, from Philip Colbert, The Death of Marat and Birth of the Lobster at the Wardlaw Museum

A copy of the newspaper L’Ami du Peuple was on the table beside his bath at the time of his death, alongside a letter form Charlotte Corday, which featured in the masterpiece ‘Marat assassiné’. Although Marat was the editor of multiple newspapers during his lifetime, L’Ami du Peuple is the most famous, as it is the one Marat was known to be editing as he was murdered.

Marat Stool © Philip Colbert 2020, from Philip Colbert, The Death of Marat and Birth of the Lobster at the Wardlaw Museum

This original copy of L’ Ami du Peuple, visibly stained with Marat’s blood and bathwater, will be displayed in ‘The Death of Marat and the Birth of the Lobster’ exhibition by artist Philip Colbert at the Wardlaw Museum in St Andrews.

Etched in History: Scrimshaw from the H.M.S. Beagle

Just a tooth? Take a closer look. Currently on display in the Expanding Horizons gallery of the Wardlaw Museum, this seemingly unremarkable tooth has an extraordinary tale to tell. This is a piece of scrimshaw made by James Adolphus Bute during his service on the second voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, December 27, 1831 – October 2, 1836. Not only does this object provide us with a new perspective of a pivotal moment in history, but it also helps us to understand the global origins and scientific importance of the museum’s collections.

Since the founding of the University museum in 1838, by St Andrews’ residents and University staff, the museum and its donors tapped into imperial and scholarly networks to acquire what many termed, “curiosities” of the natural world.

Scrimshaw piece made of a sperm whale tooth, by James Bute. The scene depicts the H.M.S. Beagle grounded on the shore of Argentina on April 16, 1834. Inscription reads: ‘H.M.S. Beagle / Laid on shore in the river Santa Cruz.’

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both private collectors and museums used the networks of missionaries, military officers, colonial administrators, and naval expeditions to acquire natural specimens and ethnographic artefacts across the globe. In turn, these collections became instrumental in advancing scientific knowledge about the world and humankind.

Map of South America from ‘Chart of the World on Mercator’s projection’, by Daniel Lizars, Edinburgh, 1831. This map details the specific routes of previous expedition around the world. From the David Rumsey Map Collection,


This piece of scrimshaw is one of six which were made during the famous Second Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. Issued by the Royal Navy and commanded by Captain Robert FitzRoy, the expedition was principally a hydrographic survey of South America exploring and charting the coastline of countries, such as Brazil and Argentina. However, the ship is renowned for one of its most notable passengers: a twenty-two-year-old Charles Darwin. This journey occurred at the very beginning of Darwin’s career as a naturalist, at a time when he was even contemplating a career in the church, and yet it was fundamental in shaping his theories about evolution and natural selection. As he stated later in his life, the voyage, where he spent time making geological notes, botanical observations, and collecting specimens in places such as the Galapagos Islands, was ‘by far the most important event in my life.’

But alongside Darwin (or ‘Fly-Catcher’ as FitzRoy affectionately called him) were a diverse crew of seventy-four: from highborn naval officers to working-class sailors, royal marines, and even a disgruntled surgeon, Robert McCormick, who zealously guarded his title as the expedition’s official naturalist. One crew member included Aberdeen-born James Adolphus Bute (1800 – 1877), who having previously been a blacksmith’s apprentice and merchant sailor, had joined the Royal Marines in 1820 and rose to the rank of Sergeant. Bute had, at his own request, reverted to the rank of private to join the expedition but would eventually work his way back up to the rank of corporal.

Charles Darwin in his later years, photography taken in 1869 by Julia Margaret Cameron.

According to the Game Book of the H.M.S. Beagle, Bute was recorded as one of the marines allowed on shore to hunt wild animals. This means he potentially assisted Darwin while he collected specimens from exotic locations for his research. Bute’s experience as a blacksmith also meant that he would have assisted in creating storage containers for many of these specimens to be returned to Britain. However, one of Bute’s principle duties as a Royal Marine was protecting Darwin and the rest of the crew. In December 1832 the Beagle reached Tierra del Fuego, while the expedition made contact with the native Fuegians, Bute stood guard at the camp’s perimeter to prevent any unexpected attacks and supplies from being stolen. For his service during the expedition, Bute would later be awarded the Royal Marine Meritorious Service Medal in 1848.

H.M.S. Beagle, Middle Section Fore and Aft, 1832, from John van Whye, ed. 2002 – The Complete work of Charles Darwin Online,

But while Bute would have experienced exotic locations and thrilling moments on the voyage, like the rest of the Beagle’s crew, he would have also suffered long periods of boredom. One past time he picked up from other naval voyages was scrimshaw. Scrimshaw is the name given to the craft of, and the wide range of objects made from, whalebone (baleen). This craft originated from the art of the Inuit peoples of Greenland, Canada and Alaska, where they would carve scenes and depictions, either by needle or knife point, on the surface of whale teeth or bone. By the eighteenth century, scrimshaw became popular amongst sailors from Europe and America to occupy the idle moments at sea. Bute’s piece of scrimshaw comes from a Sperm Whale (Physeter Macrocephalus), which was hunted to near extinction due to the lucrative sale of whale oil during the period. This species, which is common to the warm waters of the Pacific, is unlike many other whale species due to its narrow lower jaw which holds up to 20 to 25 pairs of teeth.

It is likely that Bute acquired this sperm whale tooth when the H.M.S. Beagle stopped to take on supplies at the Falkland Islands, a popular whaling station at the time. In general, many unskilled sailors could easily practice scrimshaw. First, they would file down the baleen to a smooth surface, then if not by freehand, they would place a print over the tooth and prick the outline with a needle to then etch out the image. Once the lines were carved sailors would often rub the soot from lamps into the lines to make them stand out.

Sketch of the H.M.S. Beagle laid ashore on the Santa Cruz River, April 16, 1834 by Conrad Martens, from John van Whye, ed. 2002 – The Complete work of Charles Darwin Online,

Bute’s piece of scrimshaw depicts the H.M.S. Beagle beached and being repaired on the shore of the river Santa Cruz, on April 16, 1834. While crew fixed the bottom of the ship, Darwin and an expedition of crewmen, including the commissioned artists Conrad Martens, travelled upriver to find its origin. Although they came tantalisingly close to discovering the source, Lago Argentino, they had to turn back as their rations got dangerously low. Interestingly, Martens produced a similar sketch of the beached H.M.S. Beagle, as depicted on Bute’s piece. These two images provide a unique insight into how different crew members recorded their experiences of the voyage through various means, and how they were possibly inspired by similar moments in the voyage. Overall, this piece of scrimshaw is a perfect example of the fascinating collection at the Museum of the University of St Andrews, and the new stories behind these objects which are being discovered every day.

Words by Conall Treen

Atelier E.B’s Worthwhile Textiles: Exploring the Persian pattern of Paisley

From the Pre-Raphaelite to the Swinging Sixties, the Paisley pattern has been synonymous with luxury fashion and on trend-textiles for over 200 years, but the history of its ‘Paisley’ origins might surprise you.

William Holman Hunt, Portrait of Fanny, 1866-1868. Pre-Raphaelite artist Holman-Hunt gives us a glimpse into the fashion of the Paisley pattern during the 19th c. with this portrait of his wife and muse, Fanny Waugh.
© William Holman Hunt

First seen in Great Britain in the mid 18th century, the butã (pronounced bu-teh) pattern shawl was brought to British shores by the East Indian Trading Co. via the silk routes from the Kashmir region of India as a luxury textile gift. The symbol of the butã is a representation of a floral spray which has associations with Zoroastrian representations of life and fertility, as the pattern weaves and repeats in rich and luxurious wefts of colour. The history of this symbol being used for wearable fashion textiles within Asia is seen as early as the 17th century, but its design most probably originated as a spiritual symbol in the Neo-Persian Sassanid Empire, which ruled over much of modern-day central Asia between 224 to 651 AD.

The popularity of the pattern as a symbol of fashionable, exotic luxury was soon adopted across the Western hemispheres, notably in the United States amongst quilt makers who gave the pattern the comical moniker Persian pickles!

But, what of the relationship between the butã and Paisley? And why do we now refer to it as a ‘Paisley’ print?

Clark and Co Ltd. Domestic Finishing Mill & View of Seedhill Craigs, 1886. Image Courtesy of Paisley People’s Archive.

The strong relationship between the small Scottish town and the enormous history of the oriental symbol is rooted in the industrial epicentre of textile manufacturing during the 19th century, which was of course Paisley! The first mills in Paisley were established in 1812 by the Clark brothers, who pioneered selling cotton thread for domestic sewing. Businessman James Coats soon followed suite, and opened Paisley’s second rival mill in 1826.

As a result of the Napoleonic Wars across the French Empire between 1803-1815, the trade of these luxurious woven fabrics from the Middle East was greatly disrupted. As well as this, many of Paisley’s skilled weavers were left unemployed as a result of disrupted shipments. As fate would have it, lore tells us that due to these disruptions, a small Edinburgh mill named Paterson’s called on the skill of Paisley’s silk weavers to help complete an order of patterned shawls. The idea was adopted by Clark and Coats and the rest was, as they say, history!

A piece of contemporary Scottish heritage held in the University of St. Andrew’s Boswell Collection – Atelier E.B, ‘Paisley Scarf’, 144.5 x 63.6 cm, 2015. © Atelier E.B.

The unique Scottish heritage of a Middle Eastern tradition has been revived and re-examined by Atelier E.B, a duo comprised of textile designer Beca Lipscombe and artist Lucy McKenzie. Atelier E.B are interested in the history of motifs and the overlaps between art, history, commerce and display. Placing art and design on equal footings, the duo produces ethically responsible avant-garde fashion pieces.

Held at the University of St. Andrew’s Boswell Collection, Paisley Scarf is an exploration into the effect of the commerce which the Paisley pattern influenced and later declined in Scotland. By placing a bold branded text at the bottom of the Scarf, the designers explore the consequence of a pattern cut short, representing the disruption and suffering the Paisley economy faced when woven textiles fell out of fashion. The pattern is richly coloured with traditional red and amber threads and emulates a contemporary take on a traditional form.

If you can’t take your eyes off these Paisley prints,
Please see Atelier E. B’s website for more information at

Words by Grainne Fellowes

‘It’s gonna be a good rock, Houston’: the NASA Telegram

Have you ever thought what the Isle of Skye, home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes, has in common with the Moon? Or have you ever considered that while tramping the Cuillin, one of Skye’s majestic geological features, you are somehow exploring lunar structures? Although it is only one small step for man, and not necessarily one giant leap for mankind, a hike to the Gars-bheinn, a mountain in southern Cuillins, makes you closer to the Moon than most places on Earth?

NASA Telegram, 1971, Image Credit: Museums of the University of St Andrews

November 1969
Four months after Apollo 11 astronauts successfully landed on the Moon, the next Apollo mission was launched on a rainy evening of 14th November 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Five days later, commander Conrad and pilot Bean achieved a precise landing at their expected location. Their landing site was located in the south-eastern portion of the Ocean of Storms.
The astronauts collected rocks and lunar samples, and set up equipment that measured seismicity, solar wind, and magnetic field on our natural satellite, and relayed the measurements back to Earth. The Apollo 12 mission finished on 24th November with a successful splashdown. While Conrad and Bean brought 34.35 kilograms of lunar samples, all Apollo missions delivered 382 kilograms of samples to Earth.

The Moon from the telescope. Image Credit: Kasia Czubak

6th May 1971
A year and a half later, on 6th May 1971, the University of St Andrews received a telegram from NASA. It detailed the dispatch of lunar samples to the American Embassy in London from where they would be delivered to St Andrews on 23rd May 1971. The telegram was addressed to Harald Irving Drever, Professor of Geology.


Professor Harald Irving Drever, FRSE
As a postgraduate at the University of Cambridge, Drever joined student geological expedition to the west Greenland and Baffin Island in 1937. After being appointed at the University St Andrews in 1938, Drever organized the first of nine visits to Ubekendt Ejland, west Greenland. During his university career he studied also volcanic rock samples from the Isle of Skye.

Harald Irving Drever, Professor of Geology, Image Credit: the University of St Andrews

His research on Ubekendt Island and in the west of Scotland included detailed analysis of ultrabasic rock minerals, which were comparable with specimens brought by the Apollo 12 mission. Drever’s research and expertise resulted in an invitation to participate in the NASA Lunar Research Programme. He joined a group of few other geologists selected by NASA and analysed the Moon samples delivered by the Apollo 12 and later missions. Drever was eventually appointed the Principal Investigator with the Apollo programme from 1971 to 1973. He died two years later, in 1975, at the age of 63.

Lunar sample sent to the University of St Andrews in 1971, no. 12065, NASA


Lunar sample sent to the University of St Andrews in 1971, no. 12002, NASA

Skye and the Moon – a geological connection
One of the most distinctive textural characteristics of lunar igneous rock of basaltic type is the crystallisation of olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase in immature forms. Drever’s scientific interests laid primarily in this immature crystallisation and textures that characterise it. Indeed, many igneous rock samples from the Apollo 12 and Apollo 15 missions demonstrate these features.

The Cuillin Hills of Skye, Scotland. Image credit: Conall Treen, 2019

In particular, Drever studied textures in Procellarum samples 12002, 12009, 12021, and 12065, which, falling within his direct experience, represented the closest terrestrial analogues. A specimen of a terrestrial rock with a relevant texture came from Skye. It was a rock located a few centimeters below the top of the horizontal western extension of the Gars-bheinn intrusion. Analogical lunar and terrestrial textures were subject to rigours optical analysis. Drever demonstrated that of all igneous textures, porphyritic texture is the one with which the interpretation of the major differentiation of lunar basalts is mainly concerned. Many lunar rocks have this texture, the most typical phenocrysts being lime-poor pyroxene; less common are forsteritic olivine and anorthitic plagioclase still less.

Andrea Moise, Lunar Sample Courator. Image Credit: NASA/Charis Krysher, Core Dissection Specialist

6th May 2020 – Space exploration at St Andrews
Although Drever was most likely the first St Andrews based researcher who touched the Earth’s natural satellite, he was one of many university scholars studying the space, stars, and the Moon. While our fantastic researchers explore the universe and do their best to improve understandings of the extra-terrestrial world, the University has also hosted NASA astronauts and scientists. In addition, the Museums of the University of St Andrews care for, study, and promote the heritage of generations of scholars looking up towards the sky and investigating our stellar environs. This heritage is presented in the Gallery no. 4 at the Wardlaw Museum.

Great Astrolabe, 1575. Image Credit: Museum of the University of St Andrews

Written by Dr. Kamila Oles

Life Like Honey: Selflessness on the Shores of St Andrews

On the shores of East Sands two hundred and twenty years ago, the town of St Andrews witnessed one of the most astounding acts of bravery known to its population.

Stained glass window depicting John Honey’s rescue mission at Salvator’s Chapel, St. Andrews.
David Bean, March 2007

On the fifth of January 1800, John Honey was attending a church service at St Salvator’s Chapel. The news broke to the congregation that the Janet of Macduff had run aground just outside of St Andrews harbour. There were men still on the boat, and with no lifeboat in the town they were stranded and likely to drown.

Honey rushed to the beach where several rescue attempts had already failed, yet he was determined he would not leave without trying to save the stranded men himself. He tied a rope around his waist, handing it to his fellow students, and struck out towards the sinking Janet of Macduff. Initially, he was pulled back to shore by his concerned friends, however, he struck out again and soon boarded the fast submerging boat.

The men aboard were exhausted and unable to make the journey from the wreck to shore. Honey swam back and forth between the boat six times in total, each time carrying another crew member with him to safety. As he rescued the final crew member and pulled him back towards the shore, the mast of the boat crumbled and fell, striking Honey hard in the chest. Undeterred, Honey continued to swim into the bay, saving the last, and youngest crew member of the Janet of Macduff.

With all safe on the beach, John Honey collapsed with exhaustion, and by some accounts, died then and there from the exertion of his heroism.

He did not, however. John Honey awoke, albeit injured and exhausted, and was celebrated across Scotland by all who heard of his bravery, receiving the Freedom of the Cities of St Andrews, Perth, Forfar and Auchtermuchty, the highest honour the towns could bestow on him. He also received a silver cup, now known as the Honey Cup.

The Honey Cup

Created by John Emes, the Honey Cup is a large, two handled cup, in a neo-classical style. The commemorative cup is delicately engraved with reeds, flowers and scrolls, with an inscription running down the side of its bowl. The Honey Cup takes pride of place in the Wardlaw Museum’s Heritage Collections, where it will be available to view at its opening.

John Honey sadly died at the age of thirty-two, from health issues relating to his injury on the day of the rescue. He had lived his final years out as a Minister with his wife Ann, the daughter of a St Andrews Professor, and their three sons.

Since then, his memory has been commemorated by St Andrews students and locals alike, with Honey becoming a hero of the University. On the thirtieth of April every year, Students celebrate his courage by participating in the Gaudie, walking to the East Sands Pier in a candle-lit procession, led by pipers. At the end, a wreath is cast into the sea in remembrance of Honey and the bravery of his act.

The Gaudie celebration with a view of St Andrews Cathedral

In the Chapel of St Salvator, where John Honey rushed from to undertake his rescue mission, a stained-glass window memorialises his actions of that day. Honey stands between the other fallen heroes of St Andrews, Patrick Hamilton, and those who lost their lives in World War One.

St Andrews today has its own lifeboat, and the chances of a boat being run aground at its shores are slim. At present, East Sands, where the concerned community of St Andrews stood willing Honey and the crew to safety two hundred and twenty years ago, is empty, as we continue a prolonged period of lockdown and isolation. The actions of Honey are inconceivable to imagine taking place today.

At a moment in our lives where the most selfless thing we can do is to stay home, it seems a strange time to think of a bravery like Honey’s. It would be easy to forget about it too, when the usual celebrations of his heroism can no longer take place. The Pier, this year, will remain unlit by a procession of torches, the waters empty of commemorative wreaths.

A view of the celebration on St Andrews Pier

We should not forget though. The St Andrews community, although displaced in ways unprecedented, stretches across the globe, united by the successes of each of its members. Whilst John Honey’s act may seem inconceivable, daily heroism is taking place by the students, staff, residents and alumni of St Andrews.

At a time where many of us will have felt as helpless as locals on a beach awaiting a rescue mission, or as stranded at sea as the crew of a wrecked boat, the story of John Honey is worth remembering. We see the bravery of John Honey in every single person who continues to keep the community of St Andrews, and indeed, every other community, afloat in these troubling times. We may be confined to our homes for the most part, but reaching out to friend or stranger may stop someone from feeling like they are drowning. Although we are distanced, we can all be like John Honey and his friends, and help pull someone back to shore.

Words by Mia Foale

If objects could talk: The faceless Professor

The University of St Andrews cares for over 112,000 objects and artworks. Some of them are fairly new, some of them are literally millions of years old. We often think about objects in terms of how they were used, who created them or where they came from, but we rarely think about the stories behind them. Imagine, however, what objects could tell us if they could talk. If objects had eyes, what would they have seen?

Our first story in this series of blogs comes from an object that did once have eyes, but alas! No longer. This portrait, painted by Arthur Lemon in the late 19th century, did show Lewis Campbell, the University’s Professor of Greek between 1863 and 1892. As you can see, however, the distinguished Professor has since lost his face.

Professor Lewis Campbell today

You may think he was inspired by John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, but you’d be wrong. Professor Campbell was left in this sorry state by an act of cruel vandalism carried out in the 1990s. At the time the portrait was hanging on a staircase in Swallowgate, the School of Classics. Our records state that the damage occurred in 1990. Some dispute this, however. Another painting that one Professor believes to have been damaged at the same time, in Lower College Hall, didn’t enter the collection until 1995 and another Professor of Classics who remembers the event thinks there were staff in the department at the time of the vandalism who were not at the University in 1990.

This cannot be the case, however. A letter from May 1993 states that the portrait was already damaged by this time and again dates the damage to 1990.

There is disagreement over what time of day the damage was discovered too. One Professor believes that the School secretary entered the building early on a Monday morning and was “freaked out” on seeing the faceless portrait staring down at her (or not, as the case may be). This, he says, would mean that the attack took place over the weekend and was done by someone with a key, or that it had happened after the Friday evening research seminar. Another member of the department says that Professor Campbell’s predicament was discovered mid-morning and that he had walked past the portrait already that day. Had the damage occurred during the day or had our witness been too busy pondering the finer details of Socrates and not noticed our poor Professor?

If objects could talk, and if Professor Campbell’s face were ever discovered, he might be able to tell us when the damage took place, and indeed share with us the identity of the culprit. The truth is, we’ll never know who did it or when.

Professor Lewis Campbell in his glory days

By a stroke of luck, a photograph of the painting was requested by an American researcher in August 1990, not long before the damage occurred, and a visual record of the artwork was thus made for the first time, allowing us to see what Professor Campbell looked like before his face was so viciously attacked. The photograph really was a stroke of luck given that the researcher in question was looking for images of works by John McLure and was under the mistaken belief that our Professor of Greek was the work of this artist, which, as we know, he wasn’t. Sometimes mistakes can have happy endings. (Though not for the researcher, who published the mistake in a book. Oops!)

A.R. Wallace: Naturalist, Collector and Co-Founder of Evolution Theory

Ever heard of Charles Darwin? What about A.R. Wallace? Although he is the lesser-known of the two, A.R. Wallace made significant contributions to the field of natural science and the theory of evolution. Volunteer blogger, Vanessa Silvera, writes about his life and work, and where you can find his personal collection of taxidermy birds of paradise.

The Bell Pettigrew, St Andrews’ natural history museum, is home to several splendid specimens including, but not limited to, fossil fish, glass sponges, Narwhal tusks, and a plethora of extinct species. Visitors may also notice a handful of exquisitely colourful birds on display, acquired by the museum in the late nineteenth century. Unbeknownst to many, these ‘birds of paradise’ originally belonged to scientist Alfred Russel Wallace whose contributions to evolutionary biology remain largely overlooked.

A.R. Wallace was an extraordinary individual, a man of great talent and strong convictions. He is best remembered as an influential naturalist, explorer, collector, and most significantly as the co-founder of the theory of evolution along with Charles Darwin.

A.R. Wallace

Born in 1823 in the Welsh countryside, A.R. Wallace was one of nine children, and his appetite for learning began at a young age. As a boy his family moved to Hertfordshire, England where he attended school until he had to leave at the age of fourteen. Despite this setback, Wallace was determined to continue his education. He read treatises, studied maps and attended lectures by social reformer Robert Owen, all of which played a role in shaping his beliefs. In the meantime he worked at his eldest brother’s surveying business for a few years until 1844 when he accepted a teaching position in Leicester. He quickly befriended fellow amateur naturalist Henry Walter Bates who introduced Wallace to entomology, the study of insects.

In 1848, the two men decided to venture overseas to the Amazon to observe and collect the region’s flora and fauna. Wallace studied and gathered an impressive collection, primarily beetles, butterflies and birds. Tragically, on his return home, his ship sank and nearly all his research was lost. Undeterred, however, Wallace embarked on another voyage, but this time to the Malay Archipelago (present-day Malaysia and Indonesia).

From 1854 to 1862, he collected more than 125,000 specimens, over 5,000 of which were previously unknown to the western world. One night in 1858, while ill, Wallace had an epiphany: that natural selection is the driver of evolution. Within populations, variations are found among individuals. Individuals with traits better suited to their environment survive, reproduce and pass those traits to their offspring. This was a highly controversial theory because it was at odds with the Bible, which states that the Earth and its species remain unchanged since creation. Shortly thereafter, Wallace wrote to his hero Charles Darwin about his discovery. Darwin, impressed with Wallace’s work and similar to his own, included his paper in his publication On the Origin of Species (1859).

Following his departure from the Far East, Wallace went back to England as an esteemed member of the scientific community. He continued to devote himself to his scientific and social pursuits. Over the span of his lifetime, he published 21 books as well as over 1,000 articles and letters. What set him apart from his contemporaries was that he was a spiritualist and social critic. He disagreed with the notion that natural selection accounted for human intellect and supported unpopular causes including women’s rights and land nationalization. Though he was outshone by Darwin, Wallace did receive recognition for his work. He was granted a number of awards and honorary doctorates from the Universities of Dublin and Oxford in 1882 and 1889 respectively.

Around 1885, some of Wallace’s most prized taxidermy treasures made their way to St Andrews. Dr. Albert Günther, Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum, presented samples from Wallace’s private collection to William McIntosh, the Director of the Museum. McIntosh acquired 46 ‘birds of paradise’, including the stunning Quetzal, multiple bright-feathered Pittas, parrots, hummingbirds, and many others, which are accessible for public view.

Welcome to the Bell Pettigrew Museum

The Bell Pettigrew Museum is part of the Museums of the University of St Andrews and it is located in the Bute Building in St Mary’s Quadrangle on South Street.

At the Bell Pettigrew we have a number of rare and extinct animals. It is crucial that we safeguard these specimens for any potential research opportunities. Respecting the museum by only consuming water and monitoring the environmental conditions, means that the specimens stand a better chance of maintaining their good condition. We wanted to share a few of the interesting oddities in the collection with you.

St Kilda House Mouse (Mus musculus muralis). Photograph © Sean Dooley. All rights reserved. Image courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library, [2014-2-33].

Starting small, we have the St Kilda House Mouse (Mus musculus muralis). This specimen was found on the remote St Kilda archipelago off northwest Scotland, 41 miles west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. It is thought that St Kilda was first inhabited about 4000-5000 years ago due to the presence of stone tools and the common house mouse was most likely established in human spaces at that time. The St Kilda Mouse, now extinct, evolved from these introduced mice. It was larger than the common house mouse and is an example of the phenomenon of island gigantism. The human population of St Kilda fell to 36 individuals in 1930 and they requested to be evacuated. After 8 years of survival the St Kilda Mouse became extinct because of their reliance on human habitation for food.

Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

The Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is found at high altitudes in Central American cloud forests and is extremely rare. The great taxonomist Albert Günther , who was Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum in Kensington, presented the striking specimen to the Bell Pettigrew Museum.

Spotting the difference between male and female quetzals is simple because during breeding season the males grow a pair of tail feathers that can be 1 metre in length. Sadly, due to their beautifully coloured feathers, quetzals are hunted resulting in a severe decline in numbers and this is not helped by a continued loss of their cloud forest habitat. It is almost impossible to keep a quetzal in captivity as they tend to die quite quickly upon capture and for this reason, quetzals are used as a symbol of liberty in the Americas.

Thylacine or Tasmanian wolf/tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)

Moving to the other side of the world across Australia and New Guinea is where one would have found the Thylacine or Tasmanian wolf/tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus). Thylacines were the world’s largest marsupial predator, but their numbers went into decline with the arrival of humans 40,000 years ago. By the time Europeans arrived the Thylacine was extinct in New Guinea, almost entirely eradicated from Australia and was largely confined to the island of Tasmania.

Due to issues with sheep farming, the Tasmanian government introduced a bounty of £1 for every Thylacine killed with the last recorded wild Thylacine being shot in 1930. The last captive Thylacine died in 1936 in Hobart Zoo and despite being quite a common animal at one time, little is known about the biology of this fascinating animal. Despite almost certainly being extinct, there have been numerous reported sightings of ‘dog-like creatures’ in Australia and in September 2016 a team of British investigators from the Centre for Fortean Zoology released a video of a potential Thylacine sighting in Adelaide.

The Bell Pettigrew Museum is a fantastic place where you can learn about a variety of wildlife both great and small – and everything in between. But we don’t need to tell you how great it is; Sir David Attenborough visited in 2011 and commented: Packed full of treasures and wonders, the Bell Pettigrew is a spectacular reminder of how important a museum can be in the study of the natural sciences”.