S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Gordon, Prof George (mathematics)

Born: 1835, Abroath, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Died: 30 August 1882, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

George Gordon, son of Alexander Gordon and his wife Jane Hay, obtained the degree Master of Arts (MA) at Marischal College and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in London. He arrived in South Africa in September 1873, having been recruited as a teacher of mathematics at the Stellenbosch Gymnasium which at that time was a secondary school. In November 1874 he was appointed professor of mathematics and physical science (including chemistry) in the newly created Arts Department of the Gymnasium, which provided tuition at the tertiary level. He thus became one of the three members of the institution's first senate. Among others he trained the first student to be awarded a masters degree in mathematics by a university in southern Africa, namely Hendrik J.L. du Toit*, who was awarded the MA degree in "mathematics and natural philosophy" by the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1878.

In 1881 the Arts Department of Stellenbosch Gymnasium obtained its college charter and became Stellenbosch College (from 1887 Victoria College, and eventually the University of Stellenbosch). From the beginning of 1882, following the arrival of W.H.A. Peak* as professor of chemistry and physics, Gordon taught only mathematics (which included mechanics). However, he died later that year of appendicitis, leaving behind his wife Catherine and three children. As a very kind person he was ardently beloved by his students. From 1880 to his death he was a member of the council of the University of the Cape of Good Hope.

List of sources:
Brümmer, N.J. & Smit, J.J. Gedenkboek van het Victoria-College. Kaapstad: Nationale Pers, 1918.

De Bruyn, G.F.C. Professore: Universiteit van Stellenbosch en voorgangers. Kaapstad: Nasionale Handelsdrukkery, 1989.

De Bruyn, G.F.C. Wiskunde: dosente en studente. Universiteit van Stellenbosch en voorgangers. Stellenbosch: G.F.C. de Bruyn, 1991.

Malherbe, D.F. du T. Family register of the South African nation (3rd ed.) Stellenbosch: Tegniek, 1966.

Thom, H.B. et al. Stellenbosch 1866-1966: Honderd jaar hoër onderwys. Kaapstad: Nasionale Boekhandel, 1966.

University of the Cape of Good Hope. Calendar, 1880-1882.

Compiled by: C. Plug