William Ballantyne Hodgson (1815-1880)

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William Ballantyne Hodgson (1815-1880) was Edinburgh University's first Professor of Political Economy from 1871 to 1880.

Hodgson was a leading educational reformer. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, he was later Principal of the Liverpool Mechanics' Institute, and of Chorlton High School, Manchester. He published numerous pamphlets and lectures on educational and economic questions. A strong Liberal, he was a supporter of women's rights and an ardent anti-vivisectionist.

In 1871 he was appointed as the first Professor of Commercial and Political Economy and Mercantile Law at the University of Edinburgh; unlike all the other Chairs of the day this was a fixed-term appointment of seven years. His classes were popular, even though his subject was not part of any degree curriculum, and he accepted re-appointment in 1878. He died suddenly two years later while attending a conference in Brussels.

All or some of the text on this page originally appeared in the Gallery of Benefactors

His collection of ca 1,000 books on the history of political economy were gifted to the University Library by his widow in 1880. They include 32 items from the library of Adam Smith (1723-1790), which were later joined in the Main Library by others gifted to New College Library by the Rev Dr David Douglas Bannerman (1842-1903), and others from the library of the mathematician and inventor of the calculating machine which presaged the computer, Charles Babbage.


  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)