Born in Edinburgh on 27 April 1908, the only son of Thomas and Esther Cumming Burnett Melville (née Nicol), who resided in the southside at 233 Dalkeith Road, he went first to Preston Street School before entering George Heriot’s School in 1916. It does not appear that his school recognised his abilities as the summary report on his leaving in July 1925 recorded “Average intelligence, fairly good worker, quiet unassuming manner, always courteous”. Beneath this modest outward appearance was a young man of the highest ability. He entered the Heriot-Watt College probably contemplating a career in engineering and after a year entered the Chemistry Department of the University of Edinburgh with a bursary and graduated with first class honours in 1930. He was awarded a Carnegie Research Scholarship to undertake his PhD studies during the years 1930-1933, the topic proposed being ‘Investigation of molecular structure and chemical change by means of band spectra’.