Who was Ivison Macadam? The people who lent their names to buildings at King’s


Who was Sir Ivison Macadam? What is Virginia Woolf’s connection to King’s? We did some digging to find out about some of the people who have had a King’s building named in their honour.

Strand Campus

King’s College London was named after King George IV who first signed the charter establishing it as an institution in 1829. The construction of the King’s Building was begun that same year on land granted to the college between the Strand and the Thames.

The Quad

King's Building and the East Wing of Somerset House
Image Courtesy of King's College London Archives

The East Wing of Somerset House sits across the Quad from the King’s Building. The university sought to acquire this building for many years before finally doing so in 2009. Somerset House was built on the site of a Tudor Palace that belonged to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Seymour never saw the completion of his palace as he was executed in 1549. The palace passed into the possession of the Crown and the current building was built to house several Government offices in the late 18th century. Other aristocratic families also had property along the river. The nearby Norfolk House similarly gets its name because it was built on land owned by the Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk.

Not far from the Strand is the impressive and labyrinthine Maughan Library. The Maughan was originally the headquarters of the UK Public Record Office. The university acquired it in 2001 to turn it into the largest new university library since WWII. It was renamed in honour of Sir Deryck Maughan (Geography 1969), an alumnus who made a substantial donation to the university.

Sir Ivison Macadam
Sir Ivison Macadam (Source: William I. Macadam)

Two other buildings in the area are named after significant King’s alumni. The Virginia Woolf Building houses your favourite alumni team. Writer and feminist icon Virginia Woolf was a student at the King’s College London Ladies’ Department from 1897–1902. Twenty years later King’s played a major part in establishing the National Union of Students (NUS), and the first president of the NUS was alumnus Ivison Stevenson Macadam (Engineering, 1919 - 1922). The Macadam Building is named in his honour.

Bush House

Bush House

The university’s latest acquisition, Bush House is named after its original financer, American Businessman Irving T. Bush. He originally built Bush House as a major new centre for Trans-Atlantic trade. It was home to the BBC’s World Service for many years before King’s took it over in 2015.

Waterloo Campus

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin

The Franklin-Wilkins Building is named after the two King’s scientists involved in discovering the structure of DNA. Rosalind Franklin took the famous image of the helical structure of DNA, Photograph 51. Maurice Wilkins earnt the Nobel prize for his work confirming the hypothetical model of DNA that Watson and Crick constructed after seeing Franklin’s image.

The James Clerk Maxwell Building is named after another pre-eminent scientist. James Clerk Maxwell was Professor of Natural Philosophy at King’s when he brought magnetism, electricity and light together in a unique and elegant system of equations, paving the way for radio, television, radar and mobile phones.

Read about the names behind the buildings at St Thomas’, Guy's and Denmark Hill campuses.