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Thomas Rowatt

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Thomas Rowatt (1879-1950)


1950 Obituary [1]

"WE regret to have to record the death of Mr. Thomas Rowatt, which occurred suddenly in Edinburgh on April 7th. Until his retirement in 1945 he was, for a number of years, the Director of the Royal Scottish Museum.

Thomas Rowatt was born in London on November 7, 1879, but he belonged to an Edinburgh family, his grandfather having been a Baillie of the City and one of the pioneers of the Scottish shale oil industry. After studying for a time at the Wohler Schule at Frankfurt-on-Main, Rowatt served his engineering apprenticeship in Edinburgh and at the same time continued his education at the Heriot-Watt College. When the new technological department of the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art-as it was then called -was formed in 1901, he was appointed an assistant, and eight years later he became assistant keeper of the department. At that time Mr. Rowatt was particularly interested in the Museum's mining and metallurgical collections, and made a close study of the iron and steel industries in the West of Scotland, in Sheffield and also in Sweden.

On the retirement of Dr. Alexander Gait in 1921, Mr. Rowatt was appointed keeper of the technological department, and he succeeded Mr. Edwin Ward as Director of the Museum in 1934. During his years of service as Director Mr. Rowatt made very successful efforts to popularise the Museum's varied collections. His aim was always to get away from the idea of a "repository for museum objects" and to make the Museum a really live institution in keeping with present-day needs.

Mr. Rowatt was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a very active Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He was also a member of the Newcomen Society. In the first World War he served with the Royal Engineers of the Royal Naval Division at Antwerp in 1914, on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 and subsequently in France."


1951 Obituary [2]

"THOMAS ROWATT, O.B.E., M.M., whose death occurred on 7th April 1950 at the age of seventy, was formerly the Director of the Royal Scottish Museum and will be remembered for his successful efforts to extend the scope and usefulness of that Institution.

He received his early education at the Ewart High School, Newton Stewart and, for a time, was a student at the Wohler Schule at Frankfurt-on-Main. After matriculating at the University of London, he began a six years' apprenticeship with Messrs. Carrick and Ritchie, Edinburgh, hydraulic engineers, and concurrently attended classes at the Heriot Watt College, where he gained the College diploma in engineering, the Homer Prize, and other distinctions. On the completion of his practical training in 1902 he obtained first place in a Civil Service examination for the post of assistant in the Technological Department of the Royal Scottish Museum, where, apart from war service, he spent the rest of his active career.

In 1909 he was promoted to assistant keeper, and, in that capacity, was responsible for the design of a new range of workshops. He also made a close study of the iron and steel industries in Sheffield, the West of Scotland, and Sweden.

In September 1914 Mr. Rowatt joined the Royal Naval Division (Engineers) and saw service at Antwerp and Gallipoli, and subsequently in France, being awarded the Military Medal. On demobilization he returned to the Museum, and in 1920 became keeper of the technological department, a post he retained until 1934 when he was appointed Director. During his tenure of that office he strove to widen the appeal of the Museum by extending the scope of the collections, enhancing their educational value, and arranging exhibitions, courses of lectures and classes on special subjects. He retired in 1945 after forty-two years' service in the Museum, the last ten of which were spent as Director. Mr. Rowatt had been a Member of the Institution since 1922. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. For his services he was awarded the O.B.E. in 1939. "


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1950 Jan-Jun: Index
  2. 1951 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries