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D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson,

Veteran Professor and a freemason

D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson was Professor of Biology and Natural History at University College Dundee from 1885 until 1917. Many of the specimens on display at the Museum Collections of the University of Dundee are from the original Zoolology Museum, founded in the 1880's but demolished in the 1950's.

D'Arcy's collections represented every major group of the animal kingdom. They were partly drawn from his own expeditions and those of his students. He also received donations from friends and colleagues at home and abroad. Models charts and teaching preparations were also purchased, many of which survive today

After nearly 33 years in Dundee, D'Arcy left to take up the chair of Natural History at St Andrews University in 1917. This was the same year that he puplished his most important work, On Growth and Form. A ground breaking investigation into the growth of organisms, it pioneered the science of mathematical biology, and continues to influence both scientists and artists today.


D'Arcy became a Freemason during his early years in Dundee. All that the order stood for and its principles of brotherly love, tolerance and understanding appealed to him greatly and he was in complete sympathy with its charitable aims

He was initiated into freemasonry on 29th May 1885 when he became a member of the Operative Mason Lodge of Dundee No. 47. He was passed and raised on 29th June of the same year.

On the 29th May 1885 when the Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Brother Colonel Sir Archibald Campbell of Blythswood, Bart accompanied by Brother R.F. Shaw Stewart, Past Substitute Grand Master and many of the main officers of Grand Lodge made an official visitation to the Province.

A large gathering of members from the 26 Lodges in the Province assembled in the Queen’s Hotel, Dundee. The Grand Master highly complimented the Provincial Officers for the excellent state of Masonic affairs within the Province and referred particularly to the efficient manner in which the books were kept and also to the fact that every Lodge had been officially visited.

Prior to this visit the Grand Master had expressed a desire, that, while in Dundee, he would like to see a degree ceremony being worked and this had been arranged.
The Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Operative Dundee, No. 47, Brother David Henderson then performed an initiation ceremony (Demonstration) on Principal Peterson and Professor D’Arcy Thomson of University College, Dundee, into the craft.
After the ceremony the Grand Master complimented him on the careful, faithful and impressive manner in which he had performed the ceremony".

They were Passed to the Fellow Craft Degree and then raised to the Master Mason Degree on the 29th June 1885.

Bi-Centenary Celebration

There were quite a lot of distinguished personages at the bi-Centenary celebrations of Operative Lodge 47 which was held in the Marryat Hall. Perhaps the most impressive was the oldest known member of the Lodge, Professor Sir,D'Arcy Thompson, who needed no introduction to Dundee. Sir D'Arcy, who replied to the toast of the Lodge with which he had been associated since 1885, had an extraordinary range. He was eminent as a classical biologist and geographer and as a philosopher. In physique he was the perfect type of the dominant professor It was in 1884 he came to Dundee to take the first chair of biology and in 1917 he became professor of geology in St Andrews University. Although in his 86th year , Professor Thompson had not lost any of his distinguished appearance and command of the English language.

The Toast to Lodge Operative No. 47 was proposed by the RW Grand Secretary, Bro. W.King Gillies MA., LLD who in his address referred to the ancient history of the Lodge and the connection with Scottish history in the time of the rebellion, when, even in these trouble some years, the Lodge and the Craft had survived the storms, concluding by thanking the Lodge for the Honorary membership presented to him that evening

The reply to the toast was given by Professor Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson CB., LLD who immediately attracted the attention of the large assembly. He began " Nothing remains more vived to me in my lifetime than that day 60 years ago when the RWM of this Lodge placed around my waist the lambskin apron, emblem of purity.

Continuing he said that he hoped earnestly he had done nothing to shame his Mother Lodge and was delighted to be present on such a memorable occasion. He traced back to his early struggling days as a student at Dundee University, recalling the assistance he had received from another brother of our Lodge, provost W.W.Brownlee in the years of so much poverty and yet plenty, concluding by ensuring the Brethren that he was still a worthy son of Lodge Operative No. 47

During the whole of his discourse absolute silence reigned but immediately he finshed the whole gathering rose spontaneously and sang heartily " For He's a Jolly Good Fellow " and later on his retiral they rose to the tune " Will ye no come back again"




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