McLAREN, Samuel Bruce (1876-1916)


McLAREN, Samuel Bruce (1876-1916)
mathematician
son of Samuel Gilfillan McLaren, was born at Tokyo, Japan, where his father was a missionary, on 16 August 1876. His father came to Australia in 1885, and in 1889 was appointed principal of the Presbyterian ladies' college, Melbourne. His son was educated at Brighton grammar school and Scotch College, Melbourne, where he was dux in mathematics in 1893 and gained a scholarship at Ormond College, university of Melbourne. He qualified for the B.A. degree at the end of 1896 with first class final honours, and the final honours and Wyselaskie scholarships in mathematics. He also shared the Dixon scholarship in natural philosophy. Proceeding to England in 1897 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, was elected into a major scholarship in 1899, and was third wrangler in the same year. Taking part 2 of the mathematical tripos in his third year he was placed in the second division of the first class. He was awarded an Isaac Newton studentship in 1901, and graduated M.A. in 1905. He had been appointed lecturer in mathematics at University College, Bristol, in the previous year, and in 1906 obtained a similar position at the university of Birmingham. Between 1911 and 1913 he wrote some important papers on radiation which were published in the Philosophical Magazine, and he presented some of the more fundamental parts of his work to the mathematical congress at Cambridge in 1912. J. W. Nicholson, professor of mathematics in the university of London, writing in 1918 said McLaren "undoubtedly anticipated Einstein and Abraham in their suggestion of a variable velocity of light, with the consequent expressions for the energy and momentum of the gravitational field". In 1913 he was made professor of mathematics at Reading, and took much interest in the development of the young university. In this year he shared the Adams prize of the university of Cambridge. In 1914 he visited Australia with other members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and met his parents again. War broke out while he was in Australia, and on his return to England he enlisted and was given a commission as lieutenant in the royal engineers. He did valuable work in charge of signalling and electrical communications, but on 26 July 1916 was shot while endeavouring to clear a pit of bombs threatened by an adjacent fire. He tried to continue this work, but was hit again, and died of his wounds in hospital on 13 August 1916. He was unmarried.
McLaren was a man of much force of character, modesty, and courage. His death and that of H. G. J. Moseley were spoken of as perhaps the two most irreparable losses to British science caused by the 1914-18 war. A volume of his Scientific Papers Mainly on Electrodynamics and Natural Radiation was published by the Cambridge University Press in 1925.
The Scotch Collegian, December 1916; J. W. Nicholson, Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, 1918, reprinted with "a personal appreciation" by Hugh Walker in McLaren's Scientific Papers.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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