Maclaurin was a professor of mathematics and law, as well as an educational administrator. He was born at Galashiels, Scotland and emigrated to New Zealand with his mother to join his father and two older brothers. A brilliant scholar, he was educated at Auckland College and Grammar School and then Auckland University College. In 1891 Maclaurin was awarded first class honours in mathematics and a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he once again achieved outstanding success. He then took up law, and entered Lincoln's Inn in London.
In 1899 Maclaurin returned to New Zealand as professor of mathematics at the newly founded Victoria College at Wellington, where he taught law as well as mathematics. He was destined not to stay in New Zealand, however, and in 1907 accepted an offer from Columbia University in New York of the chair of mathematical physics. But within a year, he was offered the post of president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he achieved significant success, turning around the financial problems of the institute.
He died suddenly at Massachusetts in 1920 at the age of 49, survived by his wife (Margaret Alice Pairman Young) and two sons.
Source: K. Sinclair "Maclaurin, Richard Cockburn - Biography"