Smail | James Cameron | 1880-1970 | principal of Heriot-Watt College

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

James Cameron Smail (1880-1970) was principal of Heriot-Watt College and the architect of a period of considerable expansion in the college.

Smail was educated at Daniel Stewart's College in Edinburgh, before entering higher education at Heriot-Watt College, where he studied engineering. He also spent time at the Royal College of Science and the London School of Economics. In 1911, after several years in the government of Ireland, working for the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, he entered into employment with the London County Council. He held a number of positions over the years, including Head of the Trade Schools, Head of the Technology Branch and others, but his most famous contribution was as District Manager of the Metropolitan Munitions Committee. In this wartime post, he directed the manufacture of munitions in the department's workshops. For this, he was awarded his MBE.

On leaving the London County Council in 1928, he was appointed principal of his alma mater, Heriot-Watt. During his tenure, the college underwent a series of changes, but Smail's modernisation of the organisation was cut short by the Second World War, and was only completed by his successor, Hugh Bryan Nisbet (1902-1969). Nonetheless, Smail was able to expand the college's real estate from the cramped accommodation that it had, until then, occupied, re-established the chair of physics and the department of pharmacy. He also established the first proper library the college ever had. This library is now called the Cameron Smail library, in his honour. He also fostered links with other technical institutions, through the Association of Technical Institutions and the Association of Principals of Technical Institutions.

Smail chose to support many educational and cultural organisations. He sat on the boards of several learned societies, was a member of the Advisory Council of the Scottish Education Department, served as vice-president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was president of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts and chairman of the council of the Royal Scottish Geological Society, to name but a few of the positions he held.

Relationships

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Other Significant Information

Notable publications:

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Interests and activites:

James Cameron Smail was interested in art, he was president of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission.

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

1902-1911: Appointed Inspector, Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland)

1911-1919: Appointed Organiser of Trade Schools, London County Council

1915-1918: Appointed District Manager of the Metropolitan Munitions Committee

1915-1918: Appointed Manager of London County Council manufature of munitions and training of munitions workers

1919-1928: Appointed Head of Technology Branch and Assistant Education Officer (Technology), London County Council

1928-1950: Appointed Principal, Heriot-Watt College

1929: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

1930-1946: Appointed Member of the Advisory Council of the Scottish Education Department

1931-1932: Appointed Chairman of the Council of the Association of Technical Institutions

1934-1938: Elected Chairman of the Council of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

1937-1940: Elected Vice-President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

1938-1939: Appointed President of the Association of Principals of Technical Institutions

1944-1964: Appointed Member of the Royal Fine Art Commission or Scotland

1950-1953: Elected President of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts

Notes

List of sources for the biographical information:

Who's Who 1968-1969, (New York, St Martin's Press, 1967)

Year Book of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1971-1972, Sessions 1969-1971, (Edinburgh, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1972)