Collection MS-2-40 - Thomas McCulloch collection

Letter from Thomas McCulloch to Lord Dalhousie Letter from Sam Cunard to Thomas McCulloch Letter from Thomas McCulloch to the Senate of the University of Edinburgh Photograph of a drawing of Reverend Thomas McCulloch Sample of short hand notes by President Thomas McCulloch Ticket for Thomas McCulloch's lectures on moral philosophy at Dalhousie College

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Thomas McCulloch collection

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  • Graphic material
  • Textual record
  • Textual record (microform)

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Physical description

10 cm of textual records. - 3 reels of microfilm. - 1 photograph : b&w glass plate ; 7 x 5 cm.

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Biographical history

Thomas McCulloch, Dalhousie's first president, was a Presbyterian minister, author and educator. Born in 1776 in Fereneze, Scotland, to Michael and Elizabeth McCulloch, he 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), 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. By 1818 he had helped to establish Pictou Academy, 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 school 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. 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 died in September 1843.

In 2018 Thomas McCulloch was named one of 52 Dalhousie Originals, a list of individuals identified as having made a significant impact on the university and the broader community since Dalhousie's inception in 1818.

Custodial history

Custodial history is unknown. Items were likely accumulated from different sources and combined by archives staff.

Scope and content

Collection contains both original records and reproductions of materials related to Reverend Thomas McCulloch. Items include a glass plate etching of McCulloch, microfilm copies of his books, a sample of his shorthand, a ticket to a lecture given by McCulloch, and correspondence. The collection also includes a microform copy of a thesis written by a Dalhousie student about McCulloch.

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  • English

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Restrictions on access

There are no access restrictions on these materials. All materials are open for research.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Materials do not circulate and must be used in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.

Finding aids

Associated materials

See the Thomas McCulloch, Jr. fonds (MS-2-41) for materials created and compiled by McCulloch's son.

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Further accruals are not expected.

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