Alexander Low Bruce (1839 - 1893)
Alexander Low Bruce, the son of Robert Bruce, a brick-builder and Ann Smibert Bruce (whose maiden name was Low) was born in 1839 and educated at Edinburgh High School. After school, he joined Younger's Brewery, initially working in the London branch office of the company at St Paul's wharf, Upper Thames Street. He laboured hard and by the early 1860's, was an assiduous and trusted member of the firm, travelling widely on their behalf. For example, he was despatched to the USA in 1873 to take orders for Younger's products, amongst which was one in Boston for 105 casks of sparkling ale and ten hogsheads of export pale ale. He kept a diary of this extensive tour (which also included New York, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, Chicago, Omaha, St Louis, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and New Orleans).
By April 1876, Alexander Bruce had become the husband of David Livingstone' s daughter, Agnes and was a director of the company. At this time, the brewery was still a small family concern. The firm's entire correspondence was opened by a director (usually Alexander Bruce), who read the contents and then circulated each letter to its appropriate department. There were 18 clerks, one chemist and an executive brewing staff who only numbered three. The manufacture of beer during this period was not a straightforward affair, being affected by numerous production difficulties. So it did not always come out right. As Henry J. Younger wrote at the time; "I am so completely perplexed as to what to do about the beers that I feel really at my wits end ...... I never was so afraid of any beers in all my life."
1884 was a notable year in Edinburgh, because it heralded the arrival of one of mankind's greatest benefactors - Louis Pasteur, the famous French scientist who was the founder of modern scientific bacteriology. Amongst other discoveries, Pasteur's research had thrown new light on fermentation which turned the brewing of beer from being an empirical act into a proper scientific process. He had come to Edinburgh to attend the University's tercentenary celebrations and stayed for a day or two with Mr Henry Younger, making a visit to the firm's laboratory where he gave an opinion on different aspects of the Younger's brewing process. This included the treatment of yeast which he pronounced 'pure" with great pleasure, since on this vital aid to fermentation, the firm had decided to apply his own researches to the letter. Henry Younger introduced him to Alexander Bruce and he also called on Mrs Agnes Bruce as a token of respect for her father, David Livingstone.
Alexander Bruce was a keen admirer of the French scientist's work and resolved to make a gesture to the University in memory of Louis Pasteur's visit to Edinburgh by promoting the founding of a Chair in the new discipline of Public Health. Public Health had come into being during the final decade of the 19th century, primarily to control the epidemics of infectious disease by harnessing the fruits of Victorian engineering to provide a safe and clean water supply and sewage disposal for the population. The impact which this had on the health of the population ever since has been immense.
Unfortunately, Alexander Bruce was not to live to see his dream fulfilled. He died of broncho-pneumonia, brought on by influenza on the 27th November 1893 at his home, 10 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh at the comparatively early age of 54 years. At that time, he was acting as deputy chairman of William Younger and Co. Ltd (the firm had become a public limited company in July, 1890). On his deathbed, Alexander Bruce instructed his legal adviser, a Mr Crole to ensure the proper use of a bequest towards the foundation of the new Chair of Public Health in the University of his home town.
After his death, further donations were gathered together from other members of his family, the Younger brewing firm and Sir John Usher of Norton. In this way, a total of £15,000 was eventually offered to the University commissioners.
The Alexander Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health was the first of its kind in Britain when Charles Hunter Stewart took up his appointment on the 23rd July 1898.