George Watson, the Founder of the School, was born in Edinburgh on 23 November 1654. After a long career as merchant and banker, in the course of which he was appointed the first accountant of the newly formed Bank of Scotland, he died on 3 April 1723.
A memorial plaque to him can be found in Greyfriars Churchyard.
In his will he left money with the aim of providing academic excellence and the creation of an environment where young minds hungry for knowledge could flourish. He was determined that children from less advantaged backgrounds should be able to enjoy the quality of education available to those more fortunate.
As a result, George Watson's Hospital opened in 1741. In July 1870 the Merchant Company was granted powers by Parliament to reform all the hospitals under its management, and, along with the other Merchant Company Schools, George Watson's Hospital was remodelled into a day school.
It first opened as George Watson's College on 26 September 1870, with a roll of 1,000 pupils (including approximately 100 Foundationers) and Dr George Ogilvie as Headmaster.
In 1871, George Watson's Ladies' College was formed to provide similar educational facilities for girls in Admiral Duncan's House in George Square.
In 1932 the boys' School was moved from Archibald Place to new buildings in Colinton Road.
On 1 October 1974 George Watson's College and George Watson's Ladies' College were amalgamated to form one co-educational School. Since the beginning of Session 1975/76 the whole School has been accommodated at Colinton Road.
Today, George Watson's College is a fully integrated school, catering for girls and boys from Nursery through to Senior 6.
The legacy of George Watson continues today, through the George Watson's Family Foundation, which raises funds for bursary support, enabling more young people to achieve their full potential.