Rifleman James Loudon was born 24 May 1841 in Toronto, son of William James Loudon and Elizabeth Ericssen Farrell. His parents emigrated from County Londonderry (Northern Ireland) in 1828 and settled in Toronto.
James acquired an education at a private academy and the Toronto Grammar School. He so excelled that at age 12 he won a scholarship to Upper Canada College. Thereafter, until leaving university, he supported himself through a combination of awards and tutoring. By 1858 he was head boy at UCC, and he stood first in every subject when he matriculated into the University of Toronto. There he took the gold medal in mathematics on graduating with a BA in 1862.
Contemplating a legal career, in 1862 Loudon enrolled at Osgoode Hall and worked for a law firm while also obtaining a part-time tutorship in mathematics and classics at University College. In 1864 Loudon was awarded an MA, and a year later he became dean of residence and full-time tutor under (QOR Officer) John Bradford Cherriman, professor of mathematics and natural philosophy.
In June 1866 the university company of the Queen’s Own Rifles was summoned to help repel Fenian raiders. Detained at the university by examinations, a frustrated Loudon missed the battle of Ridgeway, only to pass a few aimless weeks drilling at Stratford.
He married Julia McDougall 29 Aug. 1872 and they had three daughters and six sons
At the university Loudon’s particular contribution was to foster the reform and growth of scientific studies. Appointed to replace Cherriman in 1875, he became the first native Canadian to hold a chair at the university.
Sir Daniel Wilson, president of the university, died in August 1892, and the mantle fell on Loudon who had not applied. In addition to strengthening research and the sciences at the university, he oversaw the construction of several badly needed buildings, including a gymnasium, a convocation hall, and new homes for chemistry, geology and mining, and medicine. He was instrumental in having forestry and pedagogy added. Trinity College entered federation in 1904. Loudon had also founded the Alumni Association in 1900 to help the university in lobbying for better funding. Thus mobilized, graduates were henceforth to have a significant influence on university affairs.
He retired to a life governed by ill health but enlivened by his involvement in the Ontario College of Art; active in the school from 1907, he chaired its council from the time of the incorporation of the college in 1912 until his death in December 1916. He had been president of the Canadian Institute in 1876–78 and in 1882 became an original fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, which he served as president in 1901–2.
Loudon died 29 December 1916 in Toronto and is buried in Mt Pleasant Cemetery.
Taken from The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.