John Grierson

Biography of John Grierson

John Grierson (1898-1972) was a University graduate and a pioneer of the documentary film movement. He was awarded an honorary LLD in 1948.

Born in Perthshire, Grierson won a John Clark bursary and matriculated to study at the University in 1916. His studies were interupted by national service during the First World War, in which he served as a telegraphist on minesweepers, but he returned to the University in 1919 and graduated MA with Honours in 1923. During his time as a student, he was impressed by the political philosophy of the Independent Labour Party.

Grierson went to the USA on a Rockefeller Fellowship, 1923 to 1927, became interested in the cinema and film making, and returned to the UK as Assistant Films Officer at the Empire Marketing Board. After making the documentary Drifters in 1929, he established a film unit at the EMB. In 1933 he was appointed Films Officer at the General Post Office, leaving in 1937 to found Film Centre. He founded the National Film Board of Canada in 1939 and was effectively head of the Canadian Information Services during the Second World War; was appointed as head of information at UNESCO in 1946 and then of the production company Group 3 in 1950, and presented the television programme This Wonderful World on Scottish Television from 1957 to 1967. He was a part-time Professor of Mass Communication at McGill University in Canada from 1968 until his death.


John Grierson
Documentary Film Maker

Born 26 April 1898, Deanston, Scotland.
Died 19 February 1972.
University Link: Alumnus, Honorary Graduate
GU Degrees: MA, 1922; LLD, 1948;
Occupation categories: film makers
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P131840
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Record last updated: 26th Jan 2016

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Honorary Graduate

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