Notable alumni

We have nurtured writers, renowned thinkers and political leaders as they’ve sought to change the world.

Glasgow is a breeding ground for talented writers. Our list of literary graduates range from AJ Cronin, Catherine Carswell and Tobias Smollett to Anne Donovan, William McIlvanney, William Boyd, Louise Welsh, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina and Alan Warner.

Writer and producer Steven Moffat, best known for his work as showrunner, writer and executive producer of TV series Doctor Who and Sherlock, found his passion for TV with Glasgow University Student Television.

John Buchan, author of many adventure and historical novels including The Thirty-Nine Steps, studied at Glasgow during the 1890s. As well as an acclaimed novelist he was also a politician, holding the post of Governor-General of Canada. Across the political parties, ambitious Glasgow alumni have been leading the way for generations.

Law graduate Nicola Sturgeon followed an impressive line of political leaders who studied at Glasgow when she made history as the first female First Minister of Scotland in 2014.

Our Glasgow University Union debating chamber has come to be considered one of the finest training grounds for young and ambitious politicians. The talents nurtured here include former leaders of the Liberal Democrats Sir Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell, former Leader of the Labour Party John Smith and Scotland’s inaugural First Minister Donald Dewar.

Another of our history makers is Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman who became our first alumnus to be elected Prime Minister in 1905. Following in his footsteps, Andrew Bonar Law served as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1923.

Adam Smith was a student and professor at the University of Glasgow during the flourishing of learning that marked the Scottish Enlightenment. He is a truly global figure whose work changed the world. His most famous book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, was published in 1776 and remains in print to this day.

With Chemistry graduate Professor Sir David MacMillan receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2021, we now have eight Nobel laureates associated with UofG, all shining examples of the world-changing researchers that have made an impact and built our reputation for hundreds of years.

Our history of openness at Glasgow stretches back over the centuries. After being refused entry to university in his own country because of his race, James McCune Smith came to study at Glasgow. In 1837 he became the first African-American to receive a university medical degree. He was influential in more than just medicine, however. He was a dedicated and committed slavery abolitionist.

World-changers: Timeline

Our people have always been at the forefront of innovation and our past achievements inspire our current world changers.

  • 1776 - Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations and lays the foundations of modern economics
  • 1837 - James McCune Smith becomes the first African-American to be awarded a medical degree
  • 1848 - Lord Kelvin proposes an absolute scale of temperature, now called the Kelvin Scale
  • 1894 - Marion Gilchrist if the first woman in Scotland to graduate in medicine
  • 1896 - John Macintyre opens the world's first x-ray department.
  • 1913 - Frederick Soddy discovers isotypes
  • 1926 - John Logie Baird invents the television
  • 1958 - Ian Donald shows us the first ultrasound image of a foetus.
  • 1967 - Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovers radio pulsars.
  • 1974 - Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennett create the Glasgow Coma Scale.
  • 2004 - Edwin Morgan becomes Scotland's first National Poet.
  • 2014 - Nicola Sturgeon becomes the first female First Minister of Scotland.
  • 2015 - Sheila Rowan leads the Glasgow team that first detected gravitational waves.
  • 2021 - David Macmillan receives the Nobel Prize in Chemistry