A Tribute to David Ritchie 1923-2020


David Ritchie

14 India Street

David Ritchie, was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, proceeded from there to Cambridge University where he studied engineering and became the Research Director for Barr and Stroud, specialising in submarines and periscopes and their ability to exploit of all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. After he retired from Barr and Stroud, David Ritchie became a visiting Professor at Paisley University.

In 1987, he was approached by Sidney Ross to become a Trustee of the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation. Over the years, David Ritchie has filled many rôles for the Foundation, showing great dedication. For example, in 1993, David, as Director of Development, took on, with assistance from myself, the task of raising £500,000 to enable the Foundation to buy the town house (pictured on the left) in the New Town of Edinburgh (14 India Street) where James Clerk Maxwell was born. He worked tirelessly in writing hundreds of letters to individuals, trusts and charities to seek contributions.

In order to help the Foundation to buy 14 India Street, David gave a gift of £21,320. Furthermore, David and Elmer Rees (Professor of mathematics at Edinburgh) persuaded the Scottish Office to make an interest free loan of £100,000 to help the Foundation to buy 14 India Street. David Ritchie and I succeeded in raising the necessary £500,000 to buy 14 India Street and thereby establish Maxwell's legacy in Edinburgh. Furthermore, David Ritchie, by filling out many forms, succeeded in obtaining a grant of £75,000 from the 'National Heritage Memorial Fund', to help fund the restoration of the fabric of the house as well as having the house surveyed by 'Historic Scotland' in order to determine its original colour scheme.

Buying 14 India Street, where Maxwell was born, was acknowledged by our Founder, Sydney Ross, as being a 'master-stroke'. Sydney Ross acknowledged that, without David Ritchie (with assistance from myself) working together to raise the money to buy the house, the Foundation would only ever have existed on paper. Sydney acknowledged that the purchase of the house in with Maxwell was born has had a transformative effect on the Foundation.

David Richie, himself an FRSE, donated to the Royal Society of Edinburgh a fine portrait of Clerk Maxwell (which he had commissioned and paid for) and which now hangs in the 'Maxwell Room' in the RSE along with a hologram of the Maxwell statue.

Thus, no persons could have done more for the Foundation than Sydney Ross and David Ritchie. Their membership of the RSE and their portraits hanging in the house are recognition of what they have done to create the Foundation.

David Forfar, 25 September 2020