Thomas McCulloch Canada

Biography of Thomas McCulloch

Thomas McCulloch (1776-1843) was an alumnus who founded Pictou Academy and became the first president of Dalhousie University in Canada.

Born in the village of Fereneze in Renfrewshire, Thomas McCulloch was the son of Michael McCulloch and Elizabeth Neilson. He matriculated at the University in 1792 in George Jardine's Logic class and for James Jeffray's Anatomy class in 1796. Thereafter he received his Divinity training at the theological hall of the General Associate Synod in Whitburn and became Secession Minister at Stewarton in 1799. In 1803 he applied for assignment to North America and arrived in Pictou, Nova Scotia in November that year and remained there for 35 years.

In 1815 McCulloch initiated the legislative process to establish an interdenominational institution of learning at Pictou. With McCulloch as principal, Pictou Academy began classes in May 1818. It was to be a place of liberal education included both the traditional classical education and the sciences, much the same sort of education McCulloch himself had received. On 6 August 1838 McCulloch was appointed the first president of Dalhousie College at a meeting of its board of governors. On McCulloch's death in 1843, Dalhousie closed but reopened in 1863 under James Ross who had himself studied with McCulloch at Pictou.

McCulloch's interest in natural history began with insects and later extended to birds and animals. He is said to have made a donation of insects to University's Hunterian Museum in the 1820s but there is no record of them suriving in the collections today. His former home in Pictou is now a museum housing his impressive collection.

McCulloch was the author of the Letters of Mephibosheth Stepsure, later known as The Stepsure Letters. These were first published in the Acadian Recorder in 1821 and are considered to be the first major work of Canadian humour. On the subjects of education and religion, McCulloch's publications included The Nature and Uses of a Liberal Education (1819) and Calvinism: The Doctrine of the Scriptures (1849). This dedicated theologian and educator died in Halifax on 9 September 1843 after a short illness.


Thomas McCulloch
Born 1776.
Died 9 September 1843.
GU Degree: DD, 1822;
University Link: Graduate
Occupation categories: clergymen; educators
Record last updated: 14th Sep 2015

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