To Catch the Moon from the Bottom of the Sea

If variety is the spice of life, then
Peter McEwan’s career has been a veritable curry. A man of multiple interests and enthusiasms, his roving curiosity led him and his young family to experience life on three continents and a portfolio lifestyle – by turns poet, philosopher, pig farmer, ghost hunter, book dealer, gallery owner, cricket fixer, author and academic. Unorthodox, yes. Dull, never...

To say Peter McEwan has led a rich and varied life hardly begins to describe his unconventional career. Few have embraced the roles of pig farmer, philosopher, poet, academic, parliamentary hopeful, art dealer and one-time ghost hunter with quite the same restless intellect and robust humour.

Starting out married life looking after Large Whites and Wessex Saddlebacks near Loch Ness in Scotland, he tried refining Shetland ponies’ urine for use in cosmetics. The latter sideline proved as unfruitful as his attempts to establish whether the ivy-clad lodge occupied by the McEwan family was haunted by a tormented former owner. The unexplained sightings have passed into the annals of the paranormal, captured on film by the BBC.

In the late 1950s, McEwan abandoned the Highlands and took academic posts in Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe), followed by New York State and Harvard. His observations of American life and political correctness continue to carry resonance.

An original thinker, it is as an academic that McEwan has made his mark, pioneering understandings between the sciences. His work has influenced generations of social scientists. While at Harvard, he founded the multi-disciplinary International Journal of Social Science & Medicine, a professional and commercial success in academic publishing, acknowledged as the pre-eminent journal of its kind in the world.

He later helped establish the Centre for Social Research at the fledgling University of Sussex – a task requiring equal measures of tact, diplomacy and patience.

McEwan has made waves outside academia, too. The McEwan Gallery art dealership, established with his wife Dorothy 47 years ago, discovered half of a lost Thomas Gainsborough double portrait – only to have the claim dismissed by the art establishment. The couple were later vindicated when the missing part of the painting was identified and the halves reunited.

Over 16 years, McEwan also produced the definitive Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, a reference widely used by galleries, museums and dealers.

Beyond McEwan’s career, however, is his humanity. ‘I have always found it easier to recall the good things than remember the bad, to recollect the happy events and the good people rather than remember the disappointments and the disagreeable,’ he says.


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Rhod McEwan at Glengarden Press

by Peter McEwan

To Catch the Moon - Front Cover

Cover: illustration by Alison Ewan; designed by David Freeman

Peter McEwan
Peter McEwan is a distinguished academic and author, whose posts have included Professor at New York State University, head of the Family Research Unit at Harvard University, and Director of the Centre for Social Research at Sussex University. He was also a consultant to World Health Organisation in Geneva. Author of works on Africa, world health and Scottish art, he founded – and edited for over 30 years – the International Journal of Social Science & Medicine, officially recognised as the leader in its field.
What they said:

Dictionary of Scottish Art


A tour de force – the ultimate reference work on the subject.’
Alexander Meddowes, former Deputy Chairman, Christie’s

‘Exhaustive... impressive...’
Antiques Trade Gazette

‘A seriously useful reference book.’
Country Life ISBN & BARCODE


‘The world of international research on healthcare owes a tremendous debt to Dr Peter McEwan.’
Andrew Twaddle, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Missouri, affiliate of Harvard University

‘His work has been an inspiration to us all.’
Professor Renée Fox, Annenberg Professor of the Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

‘Scotland is famous for its wonderful people... including Peter McEwan... grand promoter of the union of social scientists and biomedical scholars.’
Dr Soon-Young Yoon, Visiting Professor, Princeton University

More of what they said:

‘More intellectual than academic, he sees across fences between disciplines... McEwan has made a huge contribution to the progress of interdisciplinary science. All this without forgetting to allot time to the really important things in life, such as walking his beloved dogs in the Scottish glens near his home.’
Bob Sutcliffe, former Oxford don

‘A man of many parts to all of which he brought a high level of professionalism.
Dr Colin Murray Parkes, British psychiatrist, Harvard and London

‘My admiration for Peter’s skills, determination and apparent calmness in crisis situations is very great. He takes many things quite seriously, but himself he takes with a quiet detached humour.’
Professor Manny Eppel, Professor & Director, Centre for Adult Education, University of Sussex

‘The kindest, gentlest and most thoughtful colleague and friend one could hope to have.’
Professor Mark Field, Emeritus Professor of Medical Sociology, Harvard University

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