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Records of Heriot-Watt College

Papers of Arthur Pillans Laurie

Sub-fonds Summary

Reference Code

GB 0582 HWC 3/2-52



Extent and medium of the unit of description

10 metres

(25 boxes)

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

Laurie | Arthur Pillans | 1861-1949 | principal of Heriot-Watt College

Biographical History

Biographical History

Arthur Pillans Laurie (1861-1949) was Principal of Heriot-Watt College from 1900-1928 and oversaw an expansion of the activities and increased the academic standing of the college. He was also noted for being the first person to apply scientific methods to the analysis of pigments in works of art and he specialised in the materials involved with painting and the graphic arts.

He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, Edinburgh University and Cambridge University where he gained a first in Natural Science Tripos. His early scientific interests lay in the field of electrochemistry and he worked on electromotive force of alloys in voltaic cells but a meeting with William Holman Hunt led to the application of his scientific experience to the field of art. He devised methods of investigating pigments on a micro scale, prior to the acceptance of microchemistry as a recognised method and became an authority on the technical methods of the old masters. He was also involved in several cases in which the authenticity of paintings was in doubt.

His publications include The Pigments and Mediums of Old Masters, (1914) , Building Materials, (1922) , The Painters Methods and Materials, (1926) and The Brushwork of Rembrandt and his School, (1932).

He was a Fellow of Kings College and Cantor Lecturer in 1891, lecturer in physics and chemistry at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in 1895, lecturer in chemistry to the Royal College of Arts from 1912 and examiner in chemistry for the Royal College of Physicians and examiner in oils and colours for the City and Guilds Institute. He was also connected with the Home Office Committee on Pottery Manufacture and an Assistant Commissioner to the Royal Commission on Secondary Education in 1895.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The papers Arthur Pillans Laurie consist of:

  • private letterbooks (1901-1915)
  • official letterbooks (1900-1927)

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Businesses and Organisations

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Components of this sub-fonds