James Small

Biography of James Small

James Small
James Small

James Small (d 1968) was a graduate of the University who became James Watt Professor of the Theory and Practice of Heat Engines (renamed Mechanical Engineering in 1951) from 1938 to 1965. He was Director of the James Watt Laboratories, 1953 to 1965, and a Member of Court from 1953 to 1961.

Small graduated BSc in 1920, and was subsequently awarded a PhD (1930) and DSc (1935). He worked as a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Theory and Practice of Heat Engines from 1920 until his appointment to the James Watt Chair.

Among many honours, Small was President of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow and of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland.


James Small
Mechanical Engineer

Died 9 January 1968.
University Link: Alumnus, Lecturer, Professor
GU Degrees: BSc, 1920; PhD, 1930; DSc, 1935;
Occupation categories: mechanical engineers
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Record last updated: 20th Aug 2008

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus
  • Lecturer
  • Professor

Academic Posts


There are 2 comments available.

Posted by Retired John Maxwell at 4:27:16 on 8 October 2010

I was an engineering apprentice in the James Watt Laboratory during the Second World War. I remember Professor Small very well, and when I left he signed my Apprenticeship papers. I have those papers to this day, now laminated in plastic.

Posted by Ms Doreen McIntyre at 12:00:34 on 8 November 2012

Professor James Small was my Dad's uncle. He became a Professor at the age of around 35, which even today is no mean feat. Given his background, however, it is nothing short of breathtaking. Born one of 9 children, James was the youngest, and he was brought up in a very modest way by his parents in a working class part of Glasgow. He was obviously brilliant and visionary, realising at the age of 5 that he wanted to become a Professor! This, from a solidly working class background, with no prior history of anything beyond leaving school at the earliest possible juncture. Many thanks were due to James's Mother and sisters for their graft to put James through University and Graduate School. There were no grants in these days, and fees had to be paid out of students' families pockets. My Grandma and her family dressed feathers for women's hats to put James through his studies. And he succeeded with flying colours, hence his very successful career. I never really knew James, which is a tragedy really, I might well have done something different with my life, had I spoken to him about my career dreams, but he passed on in 1968, somewhat severed from the rest of his family. His son and daughter are still with us, and familial connections have recently been restored, thankfully. I am proud to have James as part of my lineage. He was a beacon as to what people can do when there is a will, and talent. He largely fulfilled his potential during his comparatively short time. And at the end off the day, "Wee Small" is neither gone, nor forgotten!! xxxx