As I catalogued the Roslin glass slides collection and some of the rare books one name, and occasionally photograph of, kept appearing – Professor Robert Wallace. Wondering who he was and how he might have been involved with the animal genetics programme at the University of Edinburgh, I decided to investigate.
According to his biography on Archives hub:
Robert Wallace was born into a farming family at Wallace Hall, Glencairn, Dumfries and Galloway, on 24 June 1853. He was educated at Tynron School and Hutton Academy. He studied at Edinburgh University and was awarded the degree of M.A. in December 1920, and thereafter managed farms for his father and farmed for himself and his brother. He was interested in every aspect of farm livestock recognising the importance of scientific agriculture, and throughout his career he sought to improve the standard of agriculture in Britain and the Commonwealth. In 1882 he was appointed Professor of Agriculture at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester and then in 1885 he returned to Edinburgh University as Professor of Agriculture and Rural Economy. In the early years of his office a course in Forestry was added to the curriculum for students, then a course in Agricultural Entomology, and in 1892 and an Ordinary B.Sc. was instituted. He also established the Edinburgh Incorporated School of Agriculture and this led to the official recognition of Edinburgh by the then Board of Agriculture as an agricultural teaching centre. Later on, the East of Scotland College of Agriculture, founded in 1907, merged with the University School to form the basis of the modern School of Agriculture. Wallace occupied the Chair of Agriculture and Rural Economy until 1922. In that year too, an Honours degree in Agriculture was instituted. He was also the Garton Lecturer in Colonial and Indian Agriculture, 1900-1922. In the pursuit of his study and interests, he travelled to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Southern Africa and Malaysia, as well as the United States of America, Egypt, Greece, Mexico, and Japan. Towards the end of his career, between 1914 and 1917, Wallace engaged in correspondence with Woodrow Wilson, President of the USA. The subject of his concern was the treatment of prisoners and hostages in Germany. His publications include Farm live stock of Great Britain (1889), The rural economy and agriculture of Australia and New Zealand (1891), Argentine shows and live stock (1904), and, Heather and moor burning for grouse and sheep (1917). Professor Robert Wallace died on 17 January 1939.
While some of his papers (1 volume; 2 small bundles; c. 1914-1920) may be found in the Centre for Research Collections, Main Library, University of Edinburgh (Reference number: GB 237 GB 237 Coll-87 / Location Gen. 554-555; Gen. 867F).; there are also numerous glass slides from the Roslin collection used by him as teaching material as well as images of him in East Africa, Egypt, Canada and the United States and several books that were owned by him on horses and Shorthorn cattle. There is even a photograph of him teaching Canadian soldiers about agriculture at the University of Edinburgh during World War I! Professor Robert Wallace, what’s known about him, seems to have been an important figure in agriculture, rural economy and the natural sciences at the University of Edinburgh with his passion for exploration, documentation and knowledge.