Earle Monteith Macphail was born in Aberdeen in 1861. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and then at Edinburgh University where he was awarded the degree of M.A. in 1883. He then studied Divinity at Edinburgh, at New College. While at Edinburgh he was one of the founders of the Edinburgh University Students' Representative Council, 1883-1884, and was President of the Council in 1885. Macphail also studied abroad at Jena, Tuebingen, and Berlin Universities, after which he was ordained as a missionary of the United Free Church of Scotland in 1890. That year too, he became Professor of History and Economics at Madras Christian College. He became Principal of the College in 1921. Earlier, in 1899, he became a Fellow of Madras University, and in 1909 and again in 1919 he was the Representative of the University on the Legislative Council of the Governor of Fort St. George. In 1921 and 1922 he was a Member of the Legislative Council. In 1921 too, Macphail was a Member of the Central Education Advisory Board for India. Between 1923 and 1925 he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras, as well as being a Member of the Indian Council of State in 1924. Between 1925 and 1927, he was the Representative of the European Constituency of Madras in the Legislative Assembly of India. In 1919, Macphail was awarded the CBE, and in 1924 he was made Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire. He died in Edinburgh on 19 January 1937.