March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
the difficulties encountered by President James Loudon throughout
his administration, he could claim success on one important front: the
introduction of the PhD degree in 1897.
had proposed such a degree fifteen years earlier, and though it had
been accepted by the senate, no regulations implementing it had been
established. In 1896, however, a motion by A.B. Macallum of physiology,
seconded by W.J. Alexander of English, was passed to set up a committee
to study the feasibility of offering the degree - the earlier senate
approval had never been revoked. A year later, regulations were approved
by the senate, again on Macallum's motion. "The chief credit for
this step," Loudon later observed, was "due to Professor A.B.
were already being awarded in medicine (MD - though almost all physicians
were content with the lesser qualification, the MB) and dentistry (DDS),
but these were professional degrees, unlike the PhD, which was a research
degree requiring a thesis. Macallum and Alexander, both of whom had
PhDs from Johns Hopkins University, wanted the PhD to be a research
degree based on a written thesis. It is not clear, however, that Loudon
saw the PhD in the same way. The 1883 proposal he had put forward permitted
the awarding of the degree by either thesis or examination.
Master of arts degrees
had had a long history at the University. But the degree was not
of arts degrees had had a long history at the University. They had been
awarded from the first convocation of King's College and had been continued
by the University of Toronto. But the degree was not highly regarded.
No special courses were provided, nor was residence at the University
required. In the early period, the thesis was actually written in an
examination hall "without reference to books, or to other aids."
late as 1900, The Varsity complained about "giving a graduate the
title of M.A. for work done entirely in absentia, and on the submitting
of a thesis which he can construct in from one to three months, without
even having done any original research worthy of mention." Mackenzie
King's MA, received from the University of Toronto in 1897, fitted The
Varsity's description. King produced a forty-five-page double-spaced
thesis on the International Typographical Union. It can be found in
the University Archives and contains James Mavor's revealing comments:
"A very competent paper. The only drawback is that there are no
references to authorities." The requirements were tightened in
1903, but it would not be until 1910 that a year's residence would be
required for the MA degree.
Mavor's comments on
Mackenzie King's MA thesis, 1897