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Allisonian Firsts: Raymond Clare Archibald

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Raymond Clare Archibald

First member of faculty at the Mount Allison Ladies' College to hold a PhD (1900)

R.C. Archibald sitting at a table in a photographer's studio wearing a graduation gown and holding three degrees. There is a violin on the table beside him.

Raymond Clare Archibald, [ca. 1894]

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2007.07/1031. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Raymond Clare Archibald was born at South Branch, Stewiacke, Nova Scotia on October 7, 1875. He was the son of Abram Newcomb Archibald (1849-1883)and Mary (Mellish) Archibald (1849-1901). His father was a Baptist and worked as a teacher and principal in Halifax until 1881 at which time he became the Secretary of the British American Book and Tract Society up until the time of his death.

Dr. Archibald’s mother, Mary Mellish, was born on Prince Edward Island where she received her early education and then attended the Mount Allison Ladies’ College from whence she graduated in 1867 with a Mistress of Liberal Arts (MLA). She returned to this institution in 1869 as a teacher and was ultimately appointed preceptress until failing health forced her to resign in 1873. She married Abram N. Archibald on December 14, 1874. After her husband’s death in 1883 she returned to teaching and was re-appointed as the Preceptress of the Mount Allison Ladies’ Academy in 1885. She served in that capacity, re-named Vice-Principal in 1897, until her untimely death from pneumonia in New York City on January 9, 1901.

Thus, R.C. Archibald’s early education was one that meant moving through various schools until he and his mother came to Sackville, New Brunswick in 1885. Raymond continued his education at the Mount Allison Male Academy, Sackville, New Brunswick (1885-1889), and upon matriculation entered into the University of Mount Allison College and won a Mathematical Scholarship.

He attended the University of Mount Allison College between 1889 and 1894 receiving a B.A. degree with first class honours in Mathematics, and a teacher’s diploma in violin from the Mount Allison Ladies’ College. During the 1894-1895 academic year he taught Mathematics at the Ladies’ College, and earned an artist’s violin diploma.

His education was furthered by attendance at Harvard University where he studied Mathematics and Astronomy, and graduated with a BA in 1896 and an MA in 1897. Following this he studied with Schwartz, Fuchs, and Schlesinger at the University of Berlin (1898-1899), and was then a student of Weber, Becker, and Reye at Strassburg University (1899-1900). He became the first English speaking student at the latter university to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics.

Upon his return to Canada he served as Professor of Mathematics, Librarian, and the Head of the Violin Department at the Mount Allison Ladies’ College from 1900 to 1907. It was during those years at Mount Allison that he encouraged and aided Ladies’ College students with the publishing of Allisonia (1903-1912), and assembled a mass of material pertaining to Mount Allison including complete sets of university publications such as the Catalogues of Mount Allison Institutions and The Argosy.

Raymond Clare Archibald next served as Professor of Mathematics and Head of the Department at Acadia University (1907-1908), and in 1908 accepted the position of Instructor of Mathematics at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, with the understanding that he would spend the following year at the Sorbonne and the College de France in Paris. He returned to Brown in the Fall of 1910. He served as Assistant Professor of Mathematics between 1911-1917, Associate Professor 1917-1923, and then full Professor, continuing in that position until his retirement in 1943. He taught the history of mathematics, and in 1908 began to develop what became probably the finest Mathematical Library in the world at that time.

From 1921 to 1941 he served as Librarian of the American Mathematical Society. He also completed a term as chief editor of the American Mathematical Monthly beginning circa 1920. In 1939 he was appointed chairman of a committee to study mathematical tables and the recommendations emanating from the committee’s final report led to the founding and editing of the journal, Mathematical tables and other aids to computation. This periodical was published by the National Research Council in Washington and Dr. Archibald served as the editor for seven years.

He received honorary degrees from the University of Padua (1922) and Mount Allison University (1923). He served as special lecturer at the University of California, Harvard, and Columbia. He was a regular delegate to celebrations and congresses in England, Greece, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland, and he also represented the United States government at an International Congress. On two occasions he served as a Vice-President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Chairman of two of its Sections. He was an Honorary Member or Honorary Fellow of Societies and Academies in Czechoslovakia, England, Poland and Roumania.

Dr. Archibald was a member and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, member of Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung, the Edinburgh Mathematics Society, the Mathematics Association, England, and the Société Mathématique de France.

His publications number in the hundreds, many being journal articles regarding mathematics and mathematicians. A publication of a different nature, his first book was Margaret Gordon, Lady Bannerman, Carlyle’s First Love (1910). This work was inspired when he learned that a former student at the Mount Allison Ladies’ College was related to Lady Bannerman.

His significant contributions to Mount Allison include the water fountain in the swan pond. In the summer of 1905, while in charge of Mount Allison in the absence of President Byron Crane Borden, Dr. Archibald had the pond in the Ladies’ College park drained and the fountain erected.

Between 1905 and 1955, in memory of his mother, R. C. Archibald also founded and developed the Mary Mellish Archibald Memorial Library (MMAML) of English and American Poetry and Drama. This special collection at Mount Allison University is in many respects outstanding in Canada. At the time of his death the collection included 23,000 volumes, 2,700 records, and 70,000 songs. The special library also contained a unique selection of magnetic tapes and disks from which the voices of poets and dramatists could be heard.

Over a period of many years Dr. Archibald built and developed the MMAML. He acquired, catalogued and interpreted these materials, often during his summer break from teaching responsibilities.

His focus also turned to the history of his alma mater and through personal initiative he sought to collect and compile a collection of original records that would document the history of the Mount Allison Institutions. These records of the documentary heritage of the institutions were preserved and guarded in the storage area of the MMAML. This collection of materials subsequently became the core of the Mount Allison University Archives which was established during the 1969-1970 academic year.

Raymond Clare Archibald died in the Sackville Memorial Hospital on July 26, 1955. A memorial service was held for him in the Mary Mellish Archibald Memorial Library and his ashes were buried in the family plot in the Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Related materials

You can find more information about Raymond Clare Archibal and peruse the contents of his fonds (accession no. 5501) on our Descriptions Database. You can access these records by planning a visit to the archives.