Helen Hogg - Astronomer and Faculty Stephen Leacock - Humorist and Graduate Elsie MacGill - Engineer and Graduate
Transparent Spacer
University of Toronto
U of T Great Past

Transparent Spacer

 

Question

Who was a vocal advocate for more research and headed the precursor to Canada's National Research Council?

Answer University of Toronto physiology professor A.B. Macallum was unimpressed by Canada's commitment to research. From 1912 to 1915, universities received less than $300,000 in federal research funding.

On 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 war demonstrated that Canada lacked significant scientific research capacity, particularly in comparison with Germany and the United States. The annual budget of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exceeded that of all the faculties of applied science in Canada together.

University of Toronto physiology professor A.B. Macallum estimated that during the war Canada had "not many more than 50 pure research men all told." The total sum spent by the federal government for university research from 1912 to 1915 had been less than $300,000. In response to this concern, an Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - the predecessor of the National Research Council of Canada - was established in 1916 by the federal government to help promote scientific research. Macallum was made its full-time chairman.


... the government and Macallum, who had moved to Ottawa, favoured centralizing the laboratories in Ottawa - a measure that would help solve the problem of choosing which individual universities would receive support.

Where would the scientific work be done? President Robert Falconer and the committee member John McLennan of the physics department, along with others, wanted government work to be done at or close by the existing laboratories in the universities, but the government and Macallum, who had moved to Ottawa, favoured centralizing the laboratories in Ottawa - a measure that would help solve the problem of choosing which individual universities would receive support. But such a decision would certainly weaken the research potential of the universities.

Shortly after the war, the federal government approved the creation of central laboratories in Ottawa. In the meantime, some help was given to research at the universities by the institution of scholarships and fellowships for persons who had shown capacity for scientific research. Nevertheless, there was considerable research activity on the campus during the war.

Clara Benson
Clara Benson, 1899

The faculty of engineering for the first time engaged in organized industrial research. Using the strength of materials laboratory, engineers tested the steel casings of shells, and chemical engineers tested chemical explosives. J. Watson Bain, for example, worked on picric acid, used in the manufacture of explosives. Some staff members inspected finished shells and the shrapnel within them. Others within the University also worked on explosives. Clara Benson, for example, applied her knowledge of chemistry to the chemistry of explosives.

In 1918, the faculty of engineering procured the first wind tunnel in Canada, which allowed the testing of aircraft by simulating flight without risk to the pilot - but only up to about 60 miles an hour.

Back to Last Page

Links of interest:

Transparent Spacer
Transparent Spacer