List of People Educated At The Royal High School

List Of People Educated At The Royal High School

The following is a list of notable former pupils of the Royal High School of Edinburgh, Scotland.


  • Daniel Wilson (1816–1892), anthropologist and university administrator
  • Brian Lang (born 1945), anthropologist and university administrator


  • Robert Adam (1728–1792), architect to George III
  • Robert Mylne (1733–1811), architect and engineer
  • Thomas Hamilton (1784–1858), architect
  • George Henderson (1846–1905), architect
  • William Burn (1789–1870), architect
  • David Bryce (1803–1876), architect
  • James Fergusson (1808–1886), architectural historian

Asian Studies

  • Arthur Keith (1879–1944), Sanskritist and jurist
  • H. A. R. Gibb (1895–1971), Arabic scholar


  • James Keir (1735–1820), chemist and industrialist
  • George Wilson (1818–1859), chemist and museum director
  • James Keir (1735–1820), chemist and industrialist
  • Thomas Hope (1766–1844), chemist and educationist
  • James Syme (1799–1870), discoverer of the solvent for rubber
  • Alexander Crum Brown (1838–1922), chemist

Commerce and Industry

  • William Denholm Barnetson, Baron Barnetson (1917-1981), Chairman United Newspapers, Reuters and Thames Television
  • Thomas Coutts (1735–1822), London merchant banker
  • William Forbes (1739–1806), banker and philanthropist
  • James Matheson (1796–1878), Hong Kong merchant and politician
  • David Yule (1858–1928), Calcutta merchant and industrialist, 'Empire's Richest Man'
  • Malcolm Stewart (1872–1951), brick and cement manufacturer
  • Gerry Forsgate (1919–2001), Hong Kong transport entrepreneur
  • Fraser Doherty (born 1988) creator of SuperJam 100% fruit jam, sold in major supermarkets

Classical Studies

  • John Burnet (1863–1928), Greek scholar

Earth Sciences

  • Robert Sibbald (1641–1722), physician and geographer
  • James Hutton (1726–1797), geologist and discoverer of graphite veins
  • Alexander Rose (1781–1860), geologist
  • John Bartholomew (1860–1920), cartographer and geographer
  • Charles Normand (1889–1982), meteorologist


  • John Kay (born 1948), economist


  • John Watson, (died 1762), benefactor of John Watson's School
  • William Fettes (1750–1836), lord provost and benefactor of Fettes College
  • Leonard Horner (1785–1864), geologist and a founder of the Edinburgh Academy and University College School

Engineering and Design

  • James Short (1710–1768), maker of optical instruments
  • James Nasmyth (1808–1890), inventor of the steam hammer
  • Thomas Stevenson (1818–1887), lighthouse designer
  • Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922), inventor of the telephone


  • William Chippendale (1801–1888), actor
  • Charles Cameron (1927–2001), magician
  • Ronnie Corbett (born 1930), comedian
  • David Robb (born 1947), actor
  • Ian Charleson (1949–1990), actor
  • Glenn Chandler (born 1949), creator of TV series Taggart

Games and Sport

  • John Boak (1837–1876), cricketer
  • Colin Telfer (born 1947), rugby union player
  • Ronnie Wood(born 1960), ice hockey player
  • Iwan Tukalo (born 1961), rugby union player
  • Ben Cairns (born 1985), rugby union player
  • Alan MacDonald (born 1985), rugby union player

History and Archaeology

  • William Erskine (1773–1852), historian of India
  • Patrick Tytler (1791–1849), historian of Scotland
  • Cosmo Innes (1798–1874), antiquary of Scotland
  • William Skene (1809–1892), historian and Celtic scholar
  • Alexander Murray (1841–1904), museum curator
  • Gordon Donaldson (1913–1993), historian of Scotland


  • Thomas Craig (c. 1538 – 1608), lawyer, jurist and poet
  • John Bonar, the younger (1747–1807), lawyer
  • Henry, Lord Cockburn (1779–1854), lawyer, Senator of the College of Justice, author, and a founder of the Edinburgh Academy
  • James Craig (1765–1850), lawyer and politician
  • Mark Napier (1798–1879), lawyer and historian
  • John Inglis, Lord Glencorse (1810–1891), Lord President of the Court of Session
  • Theodore Martin (1816–1909), lawyer and biographer


  • William Drummond (1585–1649), poet and pamphleteer
  • William Strahan (1715–1785), printer
  • William Smellie (1740–1795), encyclopaedist
  • Henry Mackenzie (1745–1831), writer
  • Robert Fergusson (1750–1774), poet
  • Walter Scott (1771–1832), poet and novelist
  • Francis Jeffrey (1773–1850), writer and judge
  • Adam Black (1784–1874), publisher, lord provost and Liberal backbencher
  • George Borrow (1803–1881), writer and traveller
  • Robert Garioch (1909–1981), poet and translator
  • Norman MacCaig (1910–1996), poet
  • Karl Miller (born 1931), literary critic


  • James Wardrop (1782–1869), surgeon to King George IV
  • Robert Knox (1791–1862), anatomist and ethnologist
  • Robert Christison (1797–1882), toxicologist
  • Andrew Combe (1797–1882), honorary physician to Queen Victoria and the King of the Belgians
  • Douglas Maclagan (1812–1900), surgeon
  • Charles Morehead (1807–1882), physician
  • James Spence (1812–1882), surgeon
  • Caleb Saleeby (1878–1940), public health advocate


  • Thomas Erskine, Lord Kellie (1731–1781), composer
  • Al Fairweather (1927–1993), jazz trumpeter
  • Sandy Brown (1929–1975), bandleader and acoustic architect
  • Frankie Poullain (born 1967), bassist for the band The Darkness


  • Dugald Stewart (1753–1838), philosopher
  • James Ferrier (1808–1864), philosopher
  • Henry Calderwood (1830–1897), philosopher
  • Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison (1856–1931), philosopher
  • W. D. Ross (1877–1971), philosopher


  • George Drummond (1687–1766), lord provost and civic improver
  • Alexander Wedderburn, Lord Rosslyn (1733–1805), Whig lord chancellor and defender of Clive of India
  • William Brodie, (1741–1788), deacon and thief
  • Henry Dundas, Lord Melville (1742–1811), Tory politician and political manager
  • Thomas Erskine, Lord Erskine (1750–1823), Whig lord chancellor
  • Robert Dundas, Lord Melville (1771–1851), Tory first lord of the Admiralty
  • James Abercromby, Lord Dunfermline (1776–1858), Whig speaker of the House of Commons
  • Francis Horner (1778–1817), Whig backbencher
  • Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778–1868), Whig lord chancellor
  • George Clerk (1787–1867), Tory vice-president of the Board of Trade
  • William Craig (1797–1878), Liberal lord of the Treasury, lord clerk register and keeper of the Signet
  • James Robertson (1845–1909), Unionist politician and president of the Court of Session
  • Douglas Henderson (1935–2006), SNP deputy leader
  • Chris Harvie, MSP (born 1943), SNP backbencher
  • Robin Cook (1946–2005), Labour foreign secretary and lord president of the Council
  • Sarah Boyack, MSP (born 1961), Labour former transport minister
  • Kenneth Macintosh, MSP (born 1962), Labour backbencher

Public Service

  • Eric Brown (pilot) (born 1919), World Record Holder for Most Aircraft Carrier Landings
  • Cadwallader Colden (1688–1776), lieutenant-governor of New York
  • John Campbell (1753–1784), soldier
  • Lachlan Macquarie (1761–1824), army officer and colonial governor
  • George Ramsay, Lord Dalhousie (1770–1838), army officer and governor-in-chief of British North America
  • George Murray (1772–1846), army officer and lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada
  • Alexis Greig (1775–1845), naval officer in the Russian service
  • Frederick Maitland (1777–1839), naval officer, received the surrender of Napoleon
  • Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779–1859), governor of Bombay
  • Charles Napier (1786–1860), naval officer and politician
  • George Hay, Lord Tweeddale (1787–1876), army officer and governor of Madras


  • Robert Haldane (1764–1842), theologian
  • John Campbell (1766–1840), Congregational minister and missionary in Africa
  • James Haldane (1768–1851), Baptist church leader
  • David Welsh (1793–1845), Free Church of Scotland minister and author
  • Archibald Tait (1811–1882), archbishop of Canterbury
  • William Dalrymple Maclagan (1826–1910), archbishop of York
  • James Stewart (1831–1905), Church of Scotland missionary to Africa
  • Alexander Gordon (1841–1931), Unitarian minister and historian
  • George Smith (1856–1942), theologian

Visual Arts

  • Alexander Nasmyth (1758–1840), artist and engineer
  • George Heriot (1759–1839), painter and deputy postmaster-general for British North America
  • William Allan (1782–1850), painter and president of the Royal Scottish Academy
  • Robert Lauder (1803–1869), painter and art teacher
  • David Scott (1806–1849), painter and poet
  • William Marshall (1813–1894), sculptor
  • James Archer (1822–1904), painter
  • William Douglas (1822–1891), painter, antiquary, and curator


  • William Baird (1803–1872), zoologist
  • Graham Kerr (1869–1957), zoologist
  • Landsborough Thomson (1890–1977), ornithologist

Although the Royal High School long enjoyed a near monopoly on boys’ education among the Edinburgh burgesses and county gentry, roll lists before the mid eighteenth century are incomplete. Consequently, attendance by the mathematician John Napier (1550–1617) and the philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) is unconfirmed and may be legend.

On occasion the school has also provided a literally royal education. In 1859 HRH The Prince of Wales received lessons in Roman history from the Rector, Dr. Leonhard Schmitz, and presented the Carson medal at the prize-giving. The following year, 1860, HRH Prince Ferdinand d'Orléans, duke of Alençon (1844–1910), HRH Louis d'Orléans, prince of Condé (1845–1866), and HRH Prince Pierre d'Orléans, duke of Penthièvre (1845–1919), attended classes and were awarded prizes.

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List Of People Educated At The Royal High School - Military and Civil Honours
... by the memorial porch and brass tablets in the school hall ... field was laid out at Jock's Lodge in 1919, where a grand pavilion was presented to the school by the Education Authority and opened by HRH Prince Henry in 1925 ... Meminerimus (Let us remember), taken from the school song ...

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