Mason Science College


Mason Science College was a university college in Birmingham, England, and a predecessor college of Birmingham University. Founded in 1875 by industrialist and philanthropist Sir Josiah Mason, the college was incorporated into the University of Birmingham in 1900. Two students of the college, Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin, later went on to become Prime Ministers of the UK.

Mason Science College
Mason Science College.png
Mason Science College is located in England
Mason Science College
General information
Architectural styleVictorian Gothic
AddressEdmund Street
Town or cityBirmingham
Coordinates52°28′48″N 1°54′18″W / 52.4800°N 1.9051°W / 52.4800; -1.9051Coordinates: 52°28′48″N 1°54′18″W / 52.4800°N 1.9051°W / 52.4800; -1.9051
Construction started23 February 1875
Opened1 October 1880
ClientJosiah Mason
Technical details
Floor count4
Design and construction
ArchitectJethro Cossins
Ballard, Phillada (2009). Birmingham's Victorian and Edwardian Architects. Oblong Creative Limited. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-9556576-2-7.


Sir Josiah Mason, the founder of Mason Science College. Bust by William Bloye, after Francis John Williamson.

The college was established by an English industrialist and philanthropist Sir Josiah Mason in 1875.[1][2] The building of the college in Edmund Street, Birmingham was designed by Jethro Cossins[3] and opened on 1 October 1880 and was marked by a speech by Thomas Henry Huxley.[4] In the speech, Huxley considered the opening of the college as a victory for scientific cause and supported Mason's antagonistic views on the classics and theology. The college developed various liberal and vocational subjects, but forced out the artisans. The medical and scientific departments of Queen's College, Birmingham moved to the nearby Mason Science College.[5]

In 1898 it became Mason University College, with Joseph Chamberlain becoming the President of Court of Governors of the college. In 1900 it was incorporated into the University of Birmingham.[6] Students at the College were awarded their degrees by the University of London until the University of Birmingham was established and received degree awarding powers in its own right.

William A. Tilden was professor of chemistry from 1880 to 1894. In September 1893 Francis William Aston began his university studies at the college, where he was taught physics by John Henry Poynting and chemistry by Frankland and Tilden.[7]

In 1881 Charles Lapworth became the first professor of geology at the college.[8] In 1891 physics professor John Henry Poynting successfully calculated the mean density of the Earth.[9]

The Mason College building housed Birmingham University's Faculties of Arts and Law for over half a century after the founding of the University in 1900. The Faculty of Arts building on the Edgbaston campus was not constructed until 1959-61. The Faculties of Arts and Law then moved to the Edgbaston Campus.

After the Second World War the style of architecture was not as appreciated as it is now. Paul Cadbury referred to it in 1952 as a neo-gothic monstrosity and expected it to be demolished within 50 years.[10] In the event it was demolished in 1964, along with the original Central Public Library and the Birmingham and Midland Institute, as part of the redevelopment within the inner ring road. The former Central Library stood on the site of the old college, the library having moved to a new site in 2013; the building was demolished in 2016.


During the first academic session of the college in 1880 courses in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics were offered to students. By 1881 courses in geology and mineralogy, botany and vegetable physiology, engineering, English language and literature, Greek and Latin, and French and German language and literature were also available. From 1882 Medical students at Queen's College, Birmingham were able to attend classes in botany, physiology and chemistry, and in 1892 the medical faculty of Queen's College was transferred to Mason College.[9] There was also a short-lived department of ‘Mental and Moral Science’, which was not successful despite funds being gifted specifically to support the endeavor in 1882.[11]

Academics and alumniEdit

Notable academics and alumni of the college include:


  1. ^ Eric Ives et al, The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History (Birmingham, 2000), p. 12
  2. ^ Warner, D.; Palfreyman, D., eds. (2001). The State of UK Higher Education: Managing Change and Diversity. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0335206599.
  3. ^ Ballard, Phillada (2009). Birmingham's Victorian and Edwardian Architects. Oblong Creative Limited. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-9556576-2-7.
  4. ^ "Modern History Sourcebook: Thomas H. Huxley (1825-95): Science and Culture, 1880". Fordham University. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  5. ^ Anderson, Robert (2006). British Universities Past and Present. Continuum. p. 77. ISBN 978-1852853471.
  6. ^ "Mason College". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  7. ^ Hevesy, G. (1948). "Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society Vol. 5, No. 16 (May, 1948), pp. 634-650". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5 (16): 635–650. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1948.0002. JSTOR 768761.
  8. ^ "Professor Charles Lapworth LL D FRS". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Foundation of the University 1767 -1899". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  10. ^ Cadbury, Paul S. (1952). Birmingham - Fifty Years On. Bournville Village Trust. p. 76.
  11. ^ Eric Ives, Diane Drummond and L.D. Schwarz, The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 (Birmingham: Birmingham University Press, 2000), p. 35.
  12. ^ K. Feiling, The Life of Neville Chamberlain (London, 1970), 11
  13. ^ K. Feiling, The Life of Neville Chamberlain (London, 1970), 11-12
  14. ^ "Lawrence Crawford biography".
  15. ^ a b "University of London General Register part 3" (PDF). Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Sir Guy Dain, F.R.C.S., Hon. M.D., Hon.L.L.D. (1870-1966)". Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 38 (6): 391–2. 28 September 2015. PMC 2312112. PMID 5329162.
  17. ^ Dunn, PM (2002). "Sir Leonard Parsons of Birmingham (1879-1950) and antenatal paediatrics". Arch. Dis. Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed. 86 (1): F65–7. doi:10.1136/fn.86.1.F65. PMC 1721345. PMID 11815555.


  • Ordnance Survey 1st Edition Map, 1890

External linksEdit

  • Lists of students at Mason Science College
  • 1960s photograph