Thomas McCulloch, Dalhousie's first president, was a Presbyterian minister, author and educator. Born in 1776 in Fereneze, Scotland, to Michael and Elizabeth McCulloch, he was raised in a prosperous, intellectual environment engendered by a community of highly-skilled textile workers. He graduated in logic from Glasgow University in 1792, started medical school, and continued independent studies in languages, politics and church history before training as a minister at the General Associate Synod in Whitburn. In 1799 he was ordained, assigned a presbytery in Stewarton (near Glasgow), and married Isabella Walker, with whom he eventually had nine children.
Four years after his appointment in Stewarton, McCulloch requested an assignment in North America. He was intended for Prince Edward Island, but in 1804 he was inducted into the Harbour Church in Pictou, Nova Scotia. In 1806 he opened a school in his house, a first step toward his dream of establishing a non-sectarian institute of higher education in Nova Scotia. By 1818 he had helped to establish Pictou Academy, where he served as principal. Although an academic success, with a fine collection of scientific instruments and a distinguished library and natural history collection, from its beginning the school was under political and financial pressure.
In 1824 McCulloch resigned from the ministry to concentrate his efforts on teaching and educational reform. He remained at Pictou until 1838, when he became the first president of Dalhousie College as well as Professor of Logic, Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy. McCulloch’s belief in the importance of mathematics, natural philosophy and the physical sciences was integral to his understanding of a liberal education. He gave public lectures in chemistry, established a museum of natural history at Dalhousie, and continued to pursue insect collecting. He also wrote on theology and politics and composed popular satirical stories, including The Stepsure Letters. McCulloch died in September 1843.
In 2018 Thomas McCulloch was named one of 52 Dalhousie Originals, a list of individuals identified as having made a significant impact on the university and the broader community since Dalhousie's inception in 1818. https://www.dal.ca/about-dal/dalhousie-originals/thomas-mcculloch.html