McCulloch, Thomas, 1776-1843

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McCulloch, Thomas, 1776-1843

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Thomas McCulloch was a Presbyterian minister, author, and educator. He was born in 1776 in Fereneze, Scotland to Michael and Elizabeth McCulloch and was raised in a prosperous, intellectual environment engendered by a community of highly-skilled textile workers. He graduated in logic from Glasgow University in 1792, started medical school, and continued independent studies in languages, politics, and church history before training as a minister at the General Associate Synod in Whitburn. In 1799 he was ordained, assigned a presbytery in Stewarton (near Glasgow, Scotland), and married Isabella Walker, with whom he eventually had nine children.

Four years after his appointment in Stewarton, McCulloch requested an assignment in North America. He was intended for Prince Edward Island, but in 1804 he was inducted into the Harbour Church in Pictou, Nova Scotia. In 1806 he opened a school in his house, a first step toward his dream of establishing a non-sectarian institute of higher education in Nova Scotia. He had helped to establish Pictou Academy by 1818, where he served as principal. Although an academic success, with a fine collection of scientific instruments and a distinguished library and natural history collection, from its beginning the academy was under political and financial pressure.

In 1824 McCulloch resigned from the ministry to concentrate his efforts on teaching and educational reform. He remained at Pictou until 1838, when he became the first president of Dalhousie College as well as Professor of Logic, Rhetoric, and Moral Philosophy. McCulloch’s belief in the importance of mathematics, natural philosophy, and the physical sciences was integral to his understanding of a liberal education and he gave public lectures in chemistry, established a museum of natural history at Dalhousie, and continued to pursue insect collecting. He also wrote on theology and politics and composed popular satirical stories, including The Stepsure Letters. McCulloch passed away on September 9, 1843 after a short illness.


From his birth in 1776 until 1804, Thomas McCulloch resided in Scotland. He migrated to Nova Scotia in 1804 and settled in Pictou, Nova Scotia. McCulloch moved to Halifax in 1838 and resided there until his death in 1843.

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Dalhousie University. Office of the President (1838-)

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Thomas McCulloch was the first President of Dalhousie. He was appointed in 1838 and served until his death in 1843.

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McCulloch, Thomas, Jr.

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McCulloch, Thomas, Jr. is the child of McCulloch, Thomas, 1776-1843

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Thomas McCulloch, Jr. (1809-1865) is the third son of Thomas McCulloch (1776-1843).

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  • English




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