Alistair MacFarlane

Sir Alistair George James MacFarlane CBE FRS FRSE (born 9 May 1931)[1] is a Scottish electrical engineer; leading academic; past Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and past Rector, University of the Highlands and Islands.

Sir Alistair MacFarlane

Principal of Heriot-Watt University
In office
Preceded byThomas L. Johnston
Succeeded byJohn Stuart Archer
Personal details
Alistair George James MacFarlane

(1931-05-09) 9 May 1931 (age 89)

Early careerEdit

Born on 9 May 1931, MacFarlane was educated at the former Hamilton Academy described by Sir Tam Dalyell as “a remarkable school... acting as a magnet for the most academically gifted youngsters of Lanarkshire.” [2]

He continued his studies at the University of Glasgow from which he graduated BSc and was (thereafter awarded DSc), the University of London, PhD and the University of Manchester, MSc.[3]

Following working as an engineer with the laboratories of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd., in 1959 Alistair MacFarlane was appointed Lecturer, Electrical Engineering, at Queen Mary College, University of London; promoted to Reader in 1965.[4]

Transferring to University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 1966 as Reader in Control Engineering, he was appointed Professor in 1969. Moving on to the University of Cambridge, MacFarlane was there appointed Professor of Control Engineering (1974–1990) [5] and served as Head, Information Engineering Division, and Fellow, Selwyn College, Cambridge, 1974–78, and as Vice-Master, 1980-88. He has been an Honorary Fellow of the college since 1978.[4]

Later careerEdit

From 1993 to 1998, MacFarlane served as Chairman, Scottish Council for Research in Education and as Chairman, Scottish Library and Information Council, 1994-98. Other appointments have included, non-Executive Directorship, British Nuclear Fuels (1994–2000); Member, BT Advisory Forum in Scotland, 1996–98; Consultant Editor, International Journal of Control and Membership of the Science and Engineering Research Council Computer Board, Joint Policy Committee for National Facilities for Advanced Research Computing, Advisory Committee on Safety of Nuclear Installations.[4]

Entrance to main reception, Edinburgh Campus, Heriot-Watt University

From 1989 to 1996, Alistair MacFarlane served as Principal and Vice Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh and from 1998 to 2000 as Chairman of the Advisory Group for the Scottish University for Industry. Appointed Chairman of the Academic Advisory Board, University of the Highlands and Islands Project (1999–2002), Macfarlane also served as Acting Chief Executive Officer (2000–01) and as Rector, University of the Highlands and Islands, from 2001-04.[6]

Honours and awardsEdit

Alistair MacFarlane was appointed CBE in 1987 and served as Vice-President of the Royal Society from 1997 to 1999,[7] and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh ; Fellow, Institution of Electrical Engineers; and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.[8] He was awarded the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Centennial Medal, in 1980; Sir Harold Hartley Medal, Institute of Measurement and Control, in 1982; Institution of Electrical Engineers Achievement Medal, in 1992, and its Faraday Medal, in 1993 [9] and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Oldenburger Medal, in 2004. In 1998 Professor MacFarlane was appointed an Honorary Member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland [4][10]

Alistair MacFarlane was invested with a knighthood in 2002, for services to education and science.[11]


  • MacFarlane, Alistair (March–April 2013). "W. V. O. Quine (1908-2000)". Philosophy Now. 95: 35–36.


  1. ^ "Birthdays today". The Telegraph. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2014. Prof Sir Alistair MacFarlane, Principal and Vice–Chancellor, Heriot–Watt University, 1989–96, 82
  2. ^ The Independent – Sir Tam Dalyell's obituary article, 29 November 1993, on Sir John Inch, another former pupil of Hamilton Academy Retrieved 27 October 2010
  3. ^ Burke’s Peerage and Gentry – Sir Alistair MacFarlane Retrieved 27 October 2010
  4. ^ a b c d Frost’s Scottish Who’s Who – Alistair MacFarlane Archived 27 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 27 October 2010
  5. ^ Cambridge University Newsletter archive – Prof. Sir Alistair MacFarlane Retrieved 27 October 2010
  6. ^ Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, archive Archived 18 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 27 October 2010
  7. ^ 'Sir Alistair MacFarlane is a former Vice-President of the Royal Society and a retired university Vice-Chancellor' - from this article in the September/October 2013 issue of Philosophy Now magazine.
  8. ^ Royal Society of Edinburgh – Fellows, Honours, Alistair MacFarlane Retrieved 27 October 2010
  9. ^ Edinburgh University, School of Engineering News – Faraday Medalists Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 27 October 2010
  10. ^ List of Honorary Members, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland Retrieved 27 October 2010
  11. ^ New Year’s Honours List, U.K., 2002 Retrieved 27 October 2010

External linksEdit