Appointment of Curators of Patronage, 1859

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With the appointment of Curators of Patronage in 1859, the power to appoint and to dismiss members of University staff passed from the Town Council of Edinburgh to the University itself.

From the opening of Edinburgh University in 1582 until the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858, the power to appoint the Principal and Professors of the university had rested with the Town Council of Edinburgh. This power had been unsuccessfully challenged by the Senatus Academicus of the University in 1825-1826. Although the law courts had ruled in the Town Council's favour, the quarrel between the two bodies had led to a visitation of Edinburgh University by a Royal Commission in 1826. Their recommendations, published in 1832, would eventually be embodied in the 1858 Act.

The Universities (Scotland) Act 1858 provided for the creation of seven Curators of Patronage. The Town Council was to retain some of its influence, being responsible for appointing four of the Curators. The remaining three would be appointed by the newly constituted University Court. The Act came into force on 15 October 1859, and the University Court and the Curators of Patronage were both constituted. The University Court's three appointees were: William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), newly elected Rector of the University, Edward Francis Maitland, Lord Barcaple (1803–1870), the General Council's Assessor on the University Court, and David Mure, Lord Mure (1810-1891), Lord Advocate for Scotland.

Their first appointment, made in May 1860, was Peter Guthrie Tait (1831-1901) to the Chair of Natural Philosophy.

Other University Events in 1859

See Also