Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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JONES , JOHN VIRIAMU ( 1856 - 1901 ), first principal of the University College, Cardiff ;

b. 2 Jan. 1856 , at Pentre-poeth , Swansea , one of several distinguished sons of the then famous Congregational preacher Thomas Jones ( 1819 - 1882 ) (q.v.) ; his middle name — the Erromanga pronunciation of ‘William’ — reflects his father's admiration of the famous missionary , John Williams .

His university career was a brilliant one. He obtained his London B.Sc. degree (at 19) with the University Scholarship in Geology . In 1877 he was made Fellow of London University . In 1874 he gained the Brackenbury scholarship at Balliol College , Oxford (where he became very friendly with Benjamin Jowett ), in mathematics and took not only first class honours in Mathematical Moderations and Finals, but also a first in Physics.

After some coaching in Oxford , Viriamu Jones , at the early age of 25 years, was in May 1881 appointed principal of Firth College , Sheffield . The college was in a somewhat moribund state, but in the two years of his principalship he revived and reorganized it, and made possible the future development of the college into the University of Sheffield .

In 1883 the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire was established at Cardiff , and in June of that year Viriamu Jones was appointed principal . With the help of a band of able scholars and teachers , he made the College a great centre of learning. He was greatly helped by his wife, Katherine Wills , daughter of judge Sir Alfred Wills . He collected some £70,000 fot the college, and persuaded the Cardiff Corporation to make the college the generous grant of the site of the present buildings in Cathays Park .

Viriamu Jones early realized two great needs of Wales — a Welsh university and a system of secondary education — and for both ideals he worked indomitably. He had a large share in framing the charter of the university (of which he became the first vice-chancellor , 1895-6 ), and he was mainly responsible for the greater freedom of choice of subjects in its degree-schemes. He became first vice-chairman of the Central Welsh Board for Intermediate Education .

In the midst of these indefatigable activities, he devoted every moment of his leisure to scientific research , mainly in physical measurements such as the determination of the ohm. For this research work he was elected F.R.S. in 1894 . He d. 1 June 1901 [at Geneva ] and was buried near his father in S. Thomas's cemetery, Swansea . His brother, Sir David Brynmor Jones , is separately noticed.


  • Katherine Viriamu Jones , Life of John Viriamu Jones (London, 1915) ;
  • E. B. Poulton , Viriamu Jones and other Oxford Memories (London, 1911) .


Edgar William Jones, O.B.E., M.A., Ll.D. (1868-1953), Barry

Published date: 1959