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The Wilson College Founder: Rev. Dr .John Wilson (1804- 1875)

Educationist, Missionary, Linguist, Orientalist, Visionary… each facet of Dr. Wilson’s multidimensional personality was reflected in the institutions he founded.

Born in Lauder, Scotland on 1tth December 1804, he made India his home from 1829 onwards. Ambrolie House where he lived served as the nucleus of his educational, social and missionary activity. On November 26, 1829 the Ambrolie congregation met in his residence for the first time and worship continued here till 1869. On 28th February 1869, Ambrolie Mission Church opened for public worship and continues even today to be popular with the Marathi congregation. For several decades, he provided a space for discussions and research through the Oriental Christian Spectator which he edited.

In 1832,   Wilson founded the English School which blossomed in to what is today Wilson School and Wilson College. His wife Margaret equally enthusiastic with educational activities, founded the St. Columba High School. Wilson College, founded twenty-five years prior to the University, looked after the educational needs of boys and girls across all faiths, social strata, castes and nationalities.

When in 1857, the University of Bombay was founded, Dr Wilson was one of its founding fathers and steered it towards excellence during its early formative years. He was one of the Fellows named in the Act of Incorporation of the University. The present building at Fort was built during his tenure as Vice Chancellor of the University. As a tribute to this extraordinary intellectual who served in various capacities as Dean, Syndic, examiner and paper setter, the University postponed all exams which were to be held on December


1st 1875. A marble bust of Dr. Wilson adorns the library at Rajabai Tower to which his entire book collection was donated.

Close to Dr. Wilson’s hear was Oriental studies and from 1830, he contributed actively to the activities of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. In 1838 at the age of 34, he became its President and was later made President for life. During these years several scholarly articles were written for the Journal of the BBRAS. His study of Indian languages and faiths provided early impetus to scholarly research that followed.

A little known fact was that he was also instrumental in founding the Bombay Branch of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 2000, the Department of Archives, Government of Maharashtra honoured this extraordinary visionary by recognising him as one of the Founders of Modern Mumbai. In 2004, Dr.Wilson’s birth bicentenary was remembered by the issue of a commemeorative postal cover in his honour. In 2007 on the occasion of 175 years of Wilson College the Postal Department issued a stamp of Wilson College.

On the occasion of Founder’s Day we remember with gratitude and love all the other teachers and scholars who have contributed to the building of Wilson College, Dr.  Mackichan , Prof. McKenzie, Rev. Nesbith, Rev. Murray Mitchell, Dr. H. Taylor and many more.

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