The Watt Club President

Constitutional Role

As of 2012, the president of The Watt Club is elected at the Annual Meeting for a two year term, renewable once. For their period in office, the president is the senior graduate of the University and ranks eighth in its order of precedence for ceremonial processions.

The roles and responsibilities of the president include (but are not limited to):

  • Chairing meetings of the Council
  • Chairing the Annual Meeting
  • Representing the views of The Watt Club to senior University management
  • Attending graduation ceremonies to welcome new graduates to The Watt Club and to present The Watt Club Medals and Prize
  • Representing The Watt Club at The University of Edinburgh's annual remembrance service
  • Hosting Watt Club events in Scotland
  • Representing The Watt Club at University functions

The vice-president, a role created in 1952, deputises for the president when they are unable to attend an event.


On taking office at the Annual Meeting, the new president asks the members present to stand for a one minute silence in memory of James Watt. After the silence, the president reads Lord Brougham's elegant epitaph to Watt:

"Not to perpetuate a name which must endure while the peaceful arts flourish, but to shew that mankind have learned to know those who best deserve their gratitude. The King, His Ministers, and many of the Nobles and Commoners of the Realm raised this monument to James Watt who, directing the force of an original Genius, early exercised in philosophic research, to the improvement of the Steam Engine, enlarged the resources of his Country, increased the power of Man, and rose to an eminent place among the most illustrious followers of science and the real benefactors of the World."

Facts and numbers

  • The first president of The Watt Club was John Vernon, an Edinburgh jeweller.
  • Prior to 2012, when the term of office was increased to two years, only eight presidents served more than one year in office.
  • The first graduate of Heriot-Watt or any of its precursor institutions to be president was Thomas Rowatt in 1937-38, while the last non-graduate to serve as president was Dr Duncan Cameron in 1992-93.
  • To date, there have only been three female presidents and two from outside Scotland.

Former presidents

Over its long history, The Watt Club has had a variety of presidents, some of whom include:

  • 29 Fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh including three vice-presidents and two presidents
  • Three Lord Provosts of Edinburgh
  • The inventor of the steam catapult on aircraft carriers
  • Every principal of Heriot-Watt College and two principals of Heriot-Watt University
  • A Knight of the Thistle
  • A descendent of James Watt
  • Two directors of what is now National Museums Scotland
  • A president of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • A member of the famous Stevenson family of lighthouse builders

View a complete list of Watt Club presidents.

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