The History of Physics at RMC is “still” a work in progress…The long-term aim is to have a book published. For now we are fortunate to have obtained from Dr David Baird portions of his draft which covers the period up to 2001.  Next week in e-Veritas we will cover the 1981 – 2001 era.



The Middle Years 1960-1980

The decade of the 1950’s had been a period of constant and rapid change in the College as a whole. As far as physics was concerned, starting virtually from zero, a complete university department had been created that included faculty, research facilities and degree programs. By contrast, the succeeding two decades would be a time of greater stability and of steady development of the research programs. This period of consolidation would last until the next major academic change, the conversion to fully bilingual operation at the end of the 1970’s.


New Faculty Members

In the middle 1960’s there were several significant additions to the permanent professorial faculty. In 1963 Robin Turkington arrived from UBC where he had just completed an M.Sc. with Donald Osborne on liquid helium. After working as a Research Assistant with Edwards on the development of a He3 refrigeration system, Turkington joined the permanent faculty a year later, and subsequently completed his Ph. D. from London University on the basis of the research work on helium flow rates carried out at RMC.

In 1965 Harris-Lowe returned to his old department after completing tours in the RCN and earning a Ph. D. with Drs. C.F. Mate and J.G. Daunt at Ohio State University on film flow in superfluid helium. In 1970 the department was joined by another of its own graduates. Harvey Wiederick had completed his Ph.D. with Morris Love at Queen’s University in ultra-high vacuum phenomena and was appointed to the faculty at RMC in 1969. It was pleasant to have the new experience of welcoming old students back into the department as permanent members.

Dr. L.S. Wright came to RMC in 1968 to join Baird’s superconductivity work as a Research Associate. He had earned his Ph.D. at Carleton University in metal physics, and had just completed two years of post-doctoral study with Jurgen Franck at the University of Alberta. Laurie Wright was appointed to the permanent faculty in 1969. One other person who joined the research staff and later became a permanent faculty member was Dr. B.K. Mukherjee, a winner, like Hutchison, of the undergraduate Gold Medal in physics at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Mukherjee had started his Ph.D. work at St.Andrews with Baird acting as his initial supervisor while on sabbatical leave in 1966-67. After completing his Ph.D. under J.F. Allen at St. Andrews, Binu Mukherjee came to RMC in 1969 to work as a Research Associate with Baird. The work he had started at St. Andrews on the destruction of superconductivity in current-carrying superconducting wires had been very successful, resulting in several published papers and conference presentations even before completing his Ph.D, and was continued after arrival in Kingston. Another long-term member of the research staff who made the transition to the permanent faculty was Stuart McBride. McBride was first employed as a Research Assistant with Hutchison and Rogers in 1960-63. Having come from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, he thereby consolidated the reputation of the Physics Department as the stronghold of the “Scottish Mafia”. He began work on ultrasonic attenuation with Hutchison and Rogers, and left in 1963 to pursue doctoral studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, an internationally known centre for research in ultrasonic attenuation. On the completion of his Ph.D., he returned to RMC as Research Associate in 1970, and was appointed in 1976 to the permanent faculty as Assistant Professor.


During the 1960’s and ’70’s the department was home also to a number of former students who returned to work temporarily while on service postings. These included Peter Meincke, who has already been mentioned as one of the graduates of the 1950’s, and Bob Harrison and Ken Smee, who will be included in the section describing the graduates of the 1960’s.

Few photographs of the department members, singly or collectively, survive from the 1950’s or ’60’s. It was not until the cadets preparing material for the RMC Review took the initiative to preserve photographs of all the RMC faculty members that departmental photographs of the Physics Department became available. The first of these shows the department members in 1974.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, the RMC Physics Department was fortunate in the presence of two eminent authorities in the field of low temperature physics.

As has been mentioned in Chapter 3, L.C. Jackson had spent a year in Kingston in 1953-54 as he recovered from the injuries caused by a severe explosion in a cryostat in his laboratory at the University of Bristol. Following four years back in Bristol, he returned to Kingston in 1958. After Jackson’s return to RMC, he re-established, with P.W.F. Gribbon as a DRB Research Assistant, his innovative work on the thickness of the HeII film. The method involved measuring the rotation of the plane of polarization of light as it passed through a helium film covering a reflecting metal surface. Given the very small thickness of the helium film, it was a substantial achievement to measure the small rotation involved. Later, the method was refined with the assistance of D. Hemming to make more precise photo-electric measurements of the rotation, and this made possible the detection of the effect of film movement on film thickness. These more precise RMC measurements provided the opportunity to discriminate among the various mutually conflicting theories of the thermodynamics of moving films. Jackson’s unique and distinguished research work continued until his retirement in 1966 and his return to England.

In addition to his innovative research, Jackson undertook while in Kingston the writing of the fifth edition of his classic Methuen text Low Temperature Physics. In this writing exercise he provided lessons to us all in the methods and standards of traditional professional work. The present writer vividly remembers Jackson, a small, quiet figure at his desk in his office in the Mackenzie Building, writing his text slowly and carefully by hand on sheets of ruled foolscap paper. I do not think he ever scored out, added, or changed a single word in the whole manuscript. Such meticulous writing was in marked contrast to the multiply-repeated re-typed drafts that were normal in those pre-computer days.

Jackson’s long and distinguished career in low temperature physics was marked by many important publications, appointments and awards which included the award in 1957 of the Duddell Medal by the Physical Society of London, the invitation to give the Inaugural Lecture at the newly-founded Department of Physics at the University of Waterloo in 1958, the 1961 publication of the anthology of significant articles by leading low temperature physicists on cryogenic techniques, Experimental Cryophysics, which Jackson co-edited with F.E. Hoare and N. Kurti, and the receipt of an Honorary D.Sc. degree from the University of Waterloo in 1965.

The second eminent physicist was J.G. Daunt. John Daunt had obtained his D.Phil. under Mendelssohn at Oxford in the 1930’s where he performed the crucial experiments that elucidated the nature of HeII film flow. He moved to the United States after the war, and his continued work at Ohio State University consolidated his status as one of the world’s leaders in low temperature physics research. During his residency in Ohio Daunt became a frequent visitor at RMC. After moving from Ohio State University to spend a few years at the Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken, New Jersey, he moved to the Kingston area on retirement in 1974. To take advantage of the presence in Kingston of this distinguished figure, the Physics Departments at Queen’s University (chaired at the time by Alex Stewart) and at RMC undertook a joint project to create a new laboratory that would allow the continuation of Daunt’s creative work. With funding from both NRC and DRB the Very Low Temperature Laboratory was founded in 1974. Located within the Physics Department at Queen’s University, its directing staff included Dr. J.P. Harrison from Queen’s and Martin Edwards from RMC, with Daunt, an Honorary Professor in both departments, acting as scientific advisor. The purpose of the new laboratory was to investigate the possibility of superfluid film flow in liquid He3. Such flow had been the subject of much earlier speculation because of its significance in the theoretical understanding of the statistical physics of condensed matter, but it had never been observed experimentally.

Daunt also performed consulting work for DND, and in association with Baird wrote an extensive study of the applicability of superconducting motors for ship propulsion. Following that report, funding was received at RMC for the design and construction of a prototype superconducting motor. The motor was completed, but DND decided to terminate all ship design within the Department, relying instead on external contracts, and the superconducting motor project was cancelled before full testing could be carried out.

The presence in the department of these two distinguished pioneers in low temperature physics was a source of inspiration for those who were fortunate to come into contact with them.

Other appointments to the permanent faculty would have to await the significant future changes to the academic program as a whole that would accompany the introduction of bilingualism.

Degree Programs

During the post-war growing period of the 1950’s, the groundwork had been laid for the future extension of the educational programs into full-scale degree programs. This long-awaited development came in 1959 when the Ontario Legislature accorded RMC the right for the first time to award its own degrees in Arts, Science and Engineering. Even after such public recognition of the quality of the academic environment at RMC, the issue within DND was still not free from argument. As late as June 1960, a Defence Council memorandum still insisted that, “. . . the ability to do research and guide research is not a prime or even an essential qualification for membership on academic staffs of colleges”. This provocative contribution to the long-lasting debate about the nature and purpose of RMC was vigorously and successfully refuted by Sawyer, and the new authority to grant degrees was assured a sound base in research. It is, nevertheless, illuminating to read in a Faculty Council Minute dated as late as 1989 when the degree programs including graduate degrees had been in place for many years, that DATES (Directorate of Academic Training and Education Services) was still unsuccessful in securing agreement from CRAD (Chief of Research and Development) for the inclusion of research in the statement of objectives for the three military colleges. Despite these on-going struggles to secure the academic foundations for degree granting, however, the success of the new degree programs would turn out to be amply validated by the quality of the graduates themselves.

The new programs of study were to lead to full degree standard in four years, and the necessary revisions to the courses were undertaken immediately the legislative authority was granted. The Arts programs were already at degree standard, and the first degrees in Arts were awarded in 1959. In Science the new General Science program was also already in place, and so in 1959 the first RMC degrees in Science were awarded to General Science students. In other programs in Science and in Engineering new courses were introduced year by year with a view to first graduation in 1962.

The Department of Physics was involved in preparing two new degree programs, one in Honours Mathematics and Physics, and one in Engineering Physics, and students in these two programs graduated for the first time in 1962. The Honours Mathematics and Physics program was designed as a high-level program that would serve as a sound foundation either for graduate studies or for a lifetime career in any area, whether in the Armed Forces or, following the mandatory period of service in the Armed forces, in civilian life. In the interest of maintaining high standards in the Honours program, students who did not attain Honours standing at the end of Third Year were admitted to a Fourth Year program in General Mathematics and Physics with more relaxed requirements. Starting in 1969, however, entry into the General Mathematics and Physics program became available also at the beginning of Third Year.

One attractive and important part of the Honours Mathematics and Physics program was the scheduling. The number of contact hours in mathematics and physics was kept as low as possible consistent with the standards required. The aim was to allow time for private study and to promote independent learning, and the results amply confirmed the wisdom of the choice.

The Engineering Physics program that had been operating since 1954 on the assumption of graduation after a fifth year at a civilian university was now upgraded to reach degree standard at the end of four years, and like the other RMC programs in engineering, received prompt accreditation from the various provincial engineering licensing bodies. For the first few years the Engineering Physics program was limited to one option only, Electrical Engineering. Starting in 1983, however, the range of options was extended to include Computer Engineering and Energy and Materials Engineering.

The Engineering Physics program, despite the fact that it prepared students for a degree in engineering and incorporated engineering courses, was originally an activity of the Department of Physics. In 1975 a review of the program conducted jointly by the Dean of Science and the Dean of Engineering resulted in the formation of an Engineering Physics Committee headed by a Professor-in-Charge who reported on Engineering Physics affairs to both the Dean of Engineering an the Dean of Science. The first Professor-in-Charge was Harris-Lowe, and he was followed later by other members of the Department of Physics.

One of the most significant aspects of the two new degree programs was the opportunity for some of the graduates to proceed immediately to graduate studies. This had wisely been instituted by DND with the awareness that the reputation of undergraduate programs is established to a considerable extent by the future success of the graduates in post-graduate studies in other universities. The “PG on Scholarship” program enabled a few graduates of RMC to postpone entry into their military careers while they pursued graduate studies, provided they had been awarded a “prestigious” scholarship. While there was some debate over the definition of “prestigious”, awards such as Rhodes Scholarships, NRC (later NSERCC) Scholarships and Commonwealth Scholarships clearly qualified, and many graduates of the Honours Mathematics and Physics and Engineering Physics programs took advantage of the opportunity, thereby helping enormously to enhance RMC’s reputation with other universities. The present writer still remembers a telephone call coming to the office of the Head of the Department of Physics in the mid-1970’s asking us to send them all the graduates we could produce. The call was especially gratifying since it came from the Dean of Graduate Admissions at the University of Toronto.

Another gratifying anecdote about reputations – in the late 1960’s the present writer was talking in the First Year laboratory to a newly-arrived student who was planning to enter the Honours Mathematics and Physics program. He was a Reserve Entry student, and had made the specific decision to come to RMC at his own expense in order to study physics. When asked why he had made this choice, he answered that his next-door neighbour in Toronto had recommended that if he wanted to study physics, he should come to RMC. Who was his next-door neighbour? The gratifying answer was – a well-known professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto! Similar experiences were also reported from other members of the department.

The Books

One advantage in a completely new program of studies is the opportunity to take a fresh look at hitherto familiar material. One such opportunity, occurring in the spring of 1958, resulted in an unexpected outcome, the writing by Baird and publication of the Department of Physics’ first book. This text, Experimentation: An Introduction to Measurement Theory and Experiment Design, must have benefited from the fresh look because it apparently met some widely recognized, but hitherto unmet, need in the world of physics education. After over 50 years and three editions it still remains in print and in use in several countries around the world in both English and Spanish editions. The story of its origin may therefore be worth recounting. At this point the present writer must seek the reader’s indulgence and revert to personal anecdote mode.

The new programs in Science and in Engineering Physics that were to lead to the new degrees in Science and Engineering had incorporated in 1957 a new Third Year physics laboratory course, set up by Tom Hutchison and me, that was taken by all the Science and Engineering students. As with all the laboratory courses in the preceding junior years, the course was constructed to follow the traditional pattern in which the students, working in pairs, were provided with detailed instructions for every step of their experiment. These instructions included all the relevant theory, the setting up of the apparatus (including, if necessary, circuit diagrams), the schedule of the measurements, the drawing of graphs and the calculation of final answers. Nothing was left to the skill or imagination of the student. The purpose in these ritualized exercises was not clear, but such was the unquestioned practise that was almost universally followed in those days.

At the end of the 1957-58 academic year, however, Tom and I decided to pay homage to our stern Scottish heritage of laboratory education and give the students for the first time (horrors!) a laboratory examination. Without thinking, we apparently assumed that in the laboratory courses that were part of all their physics courses in the preceding three years the students must have learned something of how actually to do experiments. In addition, thinking to let the students down gently after the supposedly advanced experimenting of the Third Year laboratory course, we chose a very simple little experiment that they had not previously encountered. We gave the students (working singly) a dish-shaped glass “watch glass”, a steel ball bearing that could roll in the watch glass, and appropriate measuring equipment for dimensions and time. A small piece of paper stated the requirement for the examination: derive an expression for the period of oscillation as the ball rolled back and forth in the watch glass, and make the necessary measurements to derive a value for the acceleration of gravity.

At the time appointed for the examination, the students were admitted and Tom and I confidently strolled around the laboratory, innocently expecting to supervise the busy activity of the students. Instead, there was complete stillness and profound silence. Not one of them was able to make even a start on the simple little problem. After half an hour of total inactivity it finally dawned on the bemused professors that after three whole years of the traditional laboratory courses the students still did not have the remotest idea of how to conduct an experiment on their own, a deficiency that had hitherto been completely concealed by the recipe-based instruction. Eventually, we wrote the necessary formulae and instructions on the blackboard and, somehow or other, coaxed the class through their laboratory “exam”. It was an enlightening experience for Tom and me, but, in addition, it was sufficiently traumatic for the students that the memories have persisted to this day. One of them, now a retired senior officer, recently mentioned it to me spontaneously (and accusingly!).

Tom and I were forced to recognize that almost all the time spent in the earlier laboratory classes had been wasted as we had been overlooking the requirement to provide for the students an actual education regarding the fundamental nature of experimenting. The students had no idea of the nature of measurements and their uncertainty, the nature of theoretical models, the significance of graphical analysis of the experimental results, or the nature of the final statement one could make about the experiment or the results. Tom asked me if I would construct a Third Year laboratory course to meet these requirements, and it was put in place the next year, 1958-59. It was a dismal failure. After two whole years of following recipes in the preceding laboratories, the students at the lofty heights of Third Year had no intention whatsoever of actually working to acquire something as esoteric as experimental independence. It was clear that, like learning foreign languages, experimenting involved basic mental attitudes that would have to be acquired at the earliest possible age.

I asked Tom, therefore, if I could have the students at a stage when they might be more susceptible to new ideas, and he put me in charge of the First Year laboratory. This had, traditionally, contained nothing but experiments that constituted a series of illustrations of the lecture course material (described in the lab sheets, of course, in “recipe book” style). This we now totally discarded and constructed a new program that consisted of a mixture of lecture material and experimental procedures chosen specifically to illustrate the various aspects of: measurement uncertainty, measurement statistics, graphical analysis, and the analysis of experimental results.

In the following years the First Year laboratory at RMC retained the objective of educating the students, within the range of their scientific expertise, to design and carry out their own experiments independently. A similar emphasis on independent experimenting at appropriately advanced levels was extended to cover also the Second Year and senior laboratories.

To accompany the new course in principles of experimenting for the First Year laboratory I constructed a simple set of notes for the students since no textbook support for such a course existed at the time. This set of notes was enlarged and improved over the next two years until, around 1960, a representative from the publisher Prentice-Hall, Gerry Halpin, was wandering through the laboratory one day on his way to my office when he noticed a copy of the notes. He picked it up and asked what it was. I told him, and he asked if I would give him a copy, Totally unaware of the significance of his request I gave him a copy and, thanks to Gerry’s perception and initiative, the rest, as they say, is history.

One other example of new courses bringing new ideas came in the field of solid state physics. In the 1950’s it was still not common to include solid state physics as a specific topic in an undergraduate curriculum. The available texts tended, therefore, to be oriented to graduate-level courses. Early understanding of the extremely important role that would in the future be played by solid state physics and its applications, however, prompted Hutchison to introduce an undergraduate course in solid state physics. To accompany this course and others like it, Hutchison undertook the writing of a text book on solid state physics at the undergraduate level that would emphasize not only the basic theory but also the practical applications. In association with Baird, who contributed the sections on basic quantum mechanics and atomic physics, the text The Physics of Engineering Solids was published by Wiley in 1963. This text, also, was well received and stayed in print for many years, including a Japanese-language edition.

One other book produced by the Physics Department arose from Baird’s involvement with the field of science education in the school system . In association with Fred Waite, a science teacher at Ernestown High School, and Don Cooper, Director of the OTF Science Project of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, a curriculum was developed for primary school students to enable them to have their first experiences of electrical phenomena and circuitry. A kit was constructed containing flashlight bulbs, batteries, switches and other circuit elements, and the program was tested in several schools in the Kingston area. The kit was put into production by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and was sold throughout Ontario. To accompany the kit, a corresponding text Electrical Experiences was published by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation in 1972.


The Honours Mathematics and Physics and Engineering Physics programs remained the mainstay of the Physics Department’s educational activities for many years. The numbers graduating in the Mathematics and Physics programs (Honours and General combined) and in the Engineering Physics program fluctuated substantially from year to year and are illustrated graphically during the lifetime of these programs. Over the period 1962 to 1992 the average number of graduates in Honours Mathematics and Physics was 2.3, in General 3.9, and in Engineering Physics 7.3.

Despite the fluctuations that can be expected when dealing with such small groups, it can be seen that the overall trend in the enrolment was remarkably consistent over the years despite the vicissitudes of changing circumstances. One significant exception to that consistency will be mentioned later. Although the numbers were rarely large, the compensation for the department was the quality of the students, and they form a significant part of the history of the Department of Physics.

The Students


Much, much more…

Although, as has been mentioned, the numbers in the Honours Mathematics and Physics and Engineering Physics programs were never large, many of RMC’s best students in the 1960’s and 1970’s chose one of these programs and went on to distinguished careers in military or civilian life. Many pursued graduate studies, some in physics but others in a wide variety of other professional fields. Perhaps because of the small numbers, the Department of Physics was able to offer to the students an advantage that was not universally available in other universities – close, personal attention. We were able to come to know our students as people, and many lifelong relationships had their origins in these student days. We hope that the students, too, benefitted, and it certainly is the case that a disproportionate number of RMC’s Rhodes Scholars and NRC/NSERCC award winners came from these two programs. For example, of the 10 Rhodes Scholarships awarded to RMC between 1959 and 1987, four were won by Mathematics and Physics students, far out of proportion to the graduating numbers. They were: W.K. Megill, 1962, R.B. Harrison, 1964, T.A.J. Keefer 1967, and D.V. Jacobson, 1975. Similar success was shown in the NRC and NSERCC awards.

In the mid-1970’s the Physics Department was anxious to persuade Second Year students to opt for one of the physics programs in Third and Fourth years by assuring them that an undergraduate degree in physics does not necessarily condemn the holder to permanent servitude as a physicist but can also provide a sound base for any kind of career. Accordingly, it conducted a survey of the subsequent careers of those who had studied physics at RMC since the post-war re-opening. In 1999 the Head of the Department, Rick Marsden, undertook a similar study for the same reason. The biographical notes that follow are drawn from both studies. Satisfyingly, it was discovered in both surveys that virtually the whole range of careers and occupations was represented. Many of the physics graduates were still in the Armed Forces, and a few in civilian life had followed careers in academic physics and/or research. In addition, however, an enormous variety of other occupations was revealed including: teaching, the law, medicine, the clergy, finance, industry and many others, providing comforting support for our claims regarding the benefits of a sound academic education, even in physics. The following is merely a sampling from the large number of highly successful graduates, first of all from the Honours Mathematics and Physics program, and then from the Engineering Physics program. It is restricted generally to those who have pursued careers in physics or some closely related field.

In our first graduating class in Honours Mathematics and Physics in 1962, Art Burgess received an NRC award and admission to postgraduate studies in one of the world’s leading low temperature laboratories, the renowned Mond Laboratory of Cambridge University in England. Denied by the RCN the opportunity to take up the scholarship and study at Cambridge, Burgess later did his Ph.D. work in medical imaging where he pursued an innovative and successful career, a loss to low temperature physics and a gain for biophysics. In the same class W.K. Megill was, as mentioned earlier, the first of the Honours Mathematics and Physics students to win a Rhodes Scholarship, and later pursued a military career.

Ken Smee also was a member of that first graduating class. With an NRC Scholarship he obtained a Master’s degree in nuclear physics at McGill University, and was then posted to Cyprus to seek relief from physics by attempting to keep peace between the Greeks and Turks. In 1966 he was posted into the Department of Physics at RMC. There he worked for three years with Harris-Lowe in developing the high-precision capacitance method for liquid helium studies that will be described in the section on research. Ultimately, however, he could not resist the siren call to the world of business. After three years he left the Army and RMC to start business studies at Queen’s University. He stood first in his M.B.A. class, ended up in banking, and ultimately retired from the Royal Bank of Canada as Executive Vice-President. His case is of especial interest because of his rapid rise to high levels of achievement in a field usually considered to be unconnected with physics, and he has provided a perceptive and sensitive account of the various factors that influenced him during his education and subsequent career. Ken writes,

When a young person starts studying at university, he or she often really has no idea what degree to pursue or how the learning from the chosen degree will be used after graduation. I started at Royal Roads Military College in Victoria, BC as a chemical engineering student largely because my chemistry teacher in high school had made the subject very interesting. In my second year of university, the Director of Studies (equivalent of Principal) took me aside one day, and asked if I had ever thought of studying Honours Mathematics and Physics. I should mention that he also happened to teach me Physics! I had never thought of it, but when he suggested that it would be a good idea, I made the switch. That is how I came to study Physics.

It happened that this was very good advice from an academic point of view as in my third and fourth years of study, now at Royal Military College in Kingston, my marks went up significantly. As a result, I graduated with a BSc in Honours Mathematics and Physics with First Class Honours, and a scholarship to get an MSc in Physics, which I did at McGill University in Montreal.

At this point, my formal university education ended, and I entered the Canadian Artillery. While a capability in mathematics was an asset in the Artillery, it was mostly quite basic arithmetic that was required. However, after two years in an artillery regiment, I was posted back to the Royal Military College and became a member of the Physics Department, teaching first and third year physics courses.

Teaching was a marvellous and rewarding experience that I have valued the rest of my life. One learns a lot by teaching!

I then began my transition from physics to finance, as I became a civilian and a student again, this time at the School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston. My father worried about the transition, but he need not have been concerned. The academic work was a challenge, but mainly because of the volume of reading and assignments. I was actually asked by the Business School to run math tutorials for those classmates of mine who did not have sufficiently strong math backgrounds. My main area of study was finance, which does have a major amount of math in it.

Upon graduation, I joined Alcan in the Finance Department as a financial analyst. I was immediately involved in various special studies, and discovered that the process I used was straight from the Physics Lab: consider the problem, decide what data needs to be gathered, by various means obtain the data, analyze the data to see what it can tell you, form a hypothesis and test it, finally, drawing some conclusions and making some recommendations.

After three enjoyable years at Alcan, I was asked to join the Royal Bank of Canada in the Finance Department. I made the change mostly because “finance” was the business of a bank, whereas it was a staff function in a mining and manufacturing company, and I wanted my work in finance to be intimately involved with the business. It was my best decision!

At one point in my career in the bank I was asked if I felt that my physics degrees (physics, it seems, is always considered to be extra challenging by non-physicists) were wasted in the bank. I remember saying not at all, as the study and practice of physics involves a way of thinking and a way of analyzing that can be applied to anything. All that changes is the vocabulary. The thinking process is the same. Without being too immodest, I would have to say that I think the study of physics gave me a “leg up” on my colleagues in the finance function. In three years, I was appointed the Comptroller of the bank, the head of the finance function. After a few years in that position, I moved into the business of banking.

During my career at the bank, I was in many different aspects of banking, domestic retail banking, international banking, business banking and finally, responsibility for the technology of the bank as Executive Vice President of Systems and Technology. As I moved from area to area, I was thankful for the education I had in physics as it made the transitions much easier than they otherwise would have been.

Ken omits to mention that the Director of Studies and physics professor who was astute enough to perceive his talents and persuade him into the continued study of physics was Clarence Cook. At that time Cook must have been very close to retirement, and so Ken’s arrival at RMC must be one of the last in the long series of contributions that Cook made to RMC.

Graduating in the following year, 1963, Tory Payne, went on to obtain Master’s and doctoral degrees from the Institute for Aerospace Studies at the University of Toronto, the start of a long and innovative career in Canadian space technology. Becoming an early member of the Canadian space community, he originated or was responsible for much of the work on antenna systems for Canadian space projects. One of the most significant of these was the Canadian Long Baseline Array. This technique linked in an interferometric pair the two radiotelescopes in Algonquin Park and at Penticton, BC (using time correlation made possible by the caesium clocks which had been developed at NRC and were at that time the most precise method of time-keeping in the world). This development pioneered the use of continent-wide interferometric arrays for radioastronomy that revolutionized many aspects of astronomy. Long baseline interferometry made possible images of exotic astronomical objects that were not visible in visible-light photography, and also supplied levels of resolution comparable with, or even superior to, those available in visible-light astronomy. His present company, Routes Incorporated, supplies imaging and remote sensing equipment for satellites launched in many countries around the world.

Graduating also in 1963 Nigel van Loan pursued a career took him into the field of communications, and he retired from DND as Director General of Communications and Electronic Operations. He has since worked at a senior level in the area of communications and security.

In 1964 Bob Harrison graduated from the Honours Mathematics and Physics program with, in addition, the double honour of Cadet Wing Commander and a Rhodes Scholarship. He proceeded directly to Oxford University, receiving his D.Phil. in low temperature physics from the Clarendon Laboratory. In 1971 he received a military posting at RMC and proceeded to work for three years with Wright and Baird on flux penetration into superconductors. After leaving RMC Harrison pursued a career with AECL in training and education in the field of nuclear energy generation.

Jim Barrett, also of the class of 1964, returned to academic life after tours in the RCAF. He was posted into an academic vacancy in the Department of Mathematics where he obtained a Master’s degree in 1971. He later earned his Ph.D. at the University of London in theoretical physics, and returned to RMC to join the Department of Mathematics. He subsequently became, in turn, Dean of Science and Dean of Continuing Studies.

Another 1964 graduate, A.J. Taylor, proceeded to Queen’s University where he obtained his MBA 1969. Thereafter, he worked as a computer analyst with Imperial Oil until he returned to academic life in the School of Business at Queen’s University. After a Ph.D. in Decision Sciences from Stanford University in California he became a longstanding member of the faculty in the School of Business at Queen’s specialising in mathematical modelling of transportation systems.


In the following year, 1965, Harold Merklinger graduated as a Reserve cadet and joined the scientific staff of DRB at the Naval Research Establishment (later to become DREA) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. In 1967 he was awarded a DRB Scholarship to obtain from the University of Birmingham in England a Master’s degree in Communications and Information Systems, and in 1971 a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. For his doctoral work his thesis topic was non-linear acoustics and the propagation of sound waves in fluids, a topic of obvious interest at DREA. After a distinguished career in maritime research and administration, he became Director General of DREA and Scientific Advisor Maritime.

Fraser Holman also graduated 1965. As a fighter pilot Holman pursued a long and distinguished career in the Air Force. In addition, however, Holman’s career included three years in the Mathematics Department at RMC during which time he earned a Master’s degree in Mathematics and Operations Research.

On graduation in 1967 Tony Keefer became the Physics Department’s third Rhodes Scholar. Ian McCreath graduated in 1968 and subsequently became a specialist in information technology and its relationship to strategic planning. Boris Grek graduated in 1969, proceeded immediately to Princeton University for Ph.D. work, and has since pursued his career in the exotic field of nuclear fusion. John Mason graduated in 1971 and went to England to take a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering. He then joined the British Atomic Energy Authority for a career in nuclear power administration.

In 1972 Rick Marsden graduated from the Honours Mathematics and Physics program, and in 1980 received his Ph.D. in oceanography from UBC. Following a year as a Research Associate at Dalhousie University, he joined the Department of Physics at Royal Roads where he played a leading role in establishing Royal Road’s extensive program of research in oceanography and remote sensing. Following the closing of Royal Roads in 1995, Marsden moved to the Department of Physics at RMC where he later became Head of the Department of Physics and eventually Dean of Science. Also in the class of 1972, Rob Holman obtained his Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from Dalhousie University in 1979. He joined Oregon State University where he became Professor of Oceanography carrying on a very active and successful research program in ocean dynamics and coastal processes.

In 1975 David Jacobson became the fourth graduate of the Honours Mathematics and Physics class to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Rich Cameron graduated in the following year, 1976, and returned to RMC’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in 1984, receiving his Master’s degree in Computer Science in 1986. After spending seven years at NDHQ’s School of Communications, he returned to the Computing Centre at RMC to work as Network Manager. Norman Weir graduated in 1980 and pursued a career in communications standards, security and cryptographic policy. He holds a Master’s degree in Telecommunication Policy from George Washington University, and became Attaché at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

The graduates of the Engineering Physics program were similarly distinguished in their post-graduate achievements as the following examples will show.

David Harries graduated in 1965 as Cadet Wing Commander. He had a distinguished military career, and became a respected commentator in international affairs.

Marc Garneau, a graduate in 1970, is remembered as an excellent student, but in addition his drive towards frontiers and adventure became clear at an early stage. Having come from CMR with its extra “prep” year, he was a year ahead in summer training, and so was free to spend the summer between his third and fourth years as he wished. The present writer still remembers a conversation with Marc at the end of that summer. In answer to the obvious question about his summer activities he gave the surprising reply that instead of more relaxing pursuits, he had spent the summer sailing across the Atlantic in a small sailing boat. It was not yet outer space, but at least an early indicator of an adventurous spirit.

Following graduation from RMC, Garneau proceeded to the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, England, where he received a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering. Then followed a career of rapid advancement in the fields of naval communications, electronic warfare, and other aspects of naval technology, and in 1986 he was promoted Captain. In 1983 Garneau was one of six Canadian applicants to be selected for astronaut training which began one year later. In October 1984 he became the first Canadian astronaut to fly in space. Then followed extensive training at the Johnson Space Center and in 1996 and 2000 two flights to the Space Shuttle. Following his return to earth, Garneau served as President of the Canadian Space Agency and was later elected as a Member of Parliament. Over the years he has received many Honours and Awards, too many to mention, but including, in 1985, an Honorary Doctorate from RMC.

What is the connection between such a distinguished career and a background as an Engineering Physics student? In Marc’s own words,

Until I began my university at the military colleges, I was actually thinking of a liberal arts education. However, shortly before entering military college I changed my mind, thinking that engineering would be a better career choice for me; partly because I was also training to become a naval officer and perhaps just as importantly, because I had always been curious about “how things work”.

If truth be told, I struggled mightily as I attempted to understand some of the more technical subjects that engineers-in-training must master. Eventually however most of it began to make sense. I was even emboldened to choose engineering physics as my undergraduate specialty even though this involved a fairly heavy dose of mathematics and theoretical physics. It was however, an awakening for me as I discovered what I really enjoyed and what really stimulated my imagination. It was my first exposure to orbital mechanics and to the complexities of special and general relativity. Little did I know at the time that I would return to these subjects time and again during my professional life.

In hindsight, my education at the Royal Military College was a necessary step in my preparation to become an astronaut and although I began my professional life on the high seas, I was destined in time to move to another sphere.

Closer to earth, Jean de Lafontaine graduated in 1978 and was awarded one of the prestigious NSERCC Centennial Scholarships. He studied for his Master’s degree with the Institute for Aerospace Studies of the University of Toronto, and thereafter pursued a career in space studies, and became a Professor at Sherbrooke University. Bob Brimacombe, a 1980 graduate, obtained his Ph.D. from McMaster University in the field of laser optics and returned to RMC to join the Physics Department in 1986. After spending three years as an Assistant Professor he retired from the Armed Forces and joined the Lumonics corporation.

This has been a list of some graduates from the Honours Mathematics and Physics and Engineering Physics programs and their later achievements. Even so, it cannot do justice to all those who participated in the programs, but it will serve to make the point that the physics programs in the 1960’s and 1970’s were successful in attracting many of the best RMC students. The quality of these undergraduate programs is well illustrated by the illustrious careers of these graduates.

Research and Other Professional Activities

The various research activities of the 1950’s served the needs of a changing and growing department. Following this initial period, the research programs of the 1960’s and 1970’s stabilised to pursue steady development, particularly in the acoustic properties of metals and in low temperature physics.

Liquid helium

Liquid helium research in the period between 1960 and 1980 fell into three separate areas: the work of Edwards on the thermodynamics of helium in the liquid and gaseous phases, the measurements by Jackson and his collaborators on the thickness of the superfluid helium film, and the studies on film flow rates in superfluid helium by Harris-Lowe and Turkington.

On his arrival at RMC in 1954, Edwards started his RMC research work by studying the density of liquid helium, an extension of his Toronto Ph.D. work on the thermal expansion coefficient of liquid helium. This new work at RMC was characterized by the use of interferometric methods to attain higher precision in density measurements than had hitherto been available. The beaker containing the liquid helium whose density was to be measured was placed in one arm of a Jamin interferometer and the resulting optical fringes then allowed a very precise measurement of density changes in the liquid helium. Edwards started his series of measurements of the index of refraction and density in liquid helium in 1956 by covering the temperature range between 1.5K and 4.2K. This series of measurements provided much valuable information on the nature of the λ-transition. Thereafter, however, he turned his attention to the critical temperature in helium, that temperature above which the liquid state cannot exist and materials make a transition directly between solid and vapour phases. In the case of He4 the critical temperature, Tc, is 5.1994K. This temperature will only be attained at a pressure substantially above atmospheric pressure, at which liquid helium boils normally at 4.2K. The existing understanding of the thermodynamics of the critical point in liquid helium was poor, and observations, particularly precise observations, were scarce. In association with Clair Woodbury, a 1957 graduate of the Engineering Physics program, Edwards used the precision of his interferometric measurements to supply what is described in the literature (HELIUM-3 and HELIUM-4 by W.E. Keller, 1969) as “the best description of the He4 coexistence curve near Tc.”. By making such measurements, approaching Tc more closely than any other measurements, Edwards was able to identify the critical point as a logarithmic singularity (the steepest kind of singularity short of outright discontinuity), a point of substantial importance for the theoretical understanding of the nature of liquid helium. In recognition of his unique contributions to liquid helium research Edwards was in 1961 the first member of the department to become a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

With regard to the second area of research into the properties of liquid helium, the thickness of the HeII film, the measurements made by Jackson and his collaborators have already been described in this chapter in the section devoted to Jackson himself.

In the third area, studies on the flow rate in HeII films, work that had been initiated by Jackson in 1953-54 was revived in the 1960’s when the department was joined by Harris-Lowe and Turkington. Both of them had worked on liquid helium before arriving at RMC, Harris-Lowe on the flow rates of superfluid helium with Mate and Daunt at Ohio State University, and Turkington at UBC with J.B. Brown and D.V. Osborne on the dynamics of rotating liquid helium. Turkington arrived at RMC in 1962 to work as a research assistant with Edwards using a He3 cooling system to investigate superfluid film flow over an extended temperature range down to 0.3K. When Harris-Lowe arrived in 1965, he and Turkington started the long series of measurements, continuing into the 1990’s, that would provide answers to many longstanding questions regarding the nature of superfluid film flow.

The increased measurement precision that made this possible was based on an innovative method for detecting the depth of the remaining liquid helium in the beaker that was supplying the film flow. This had been developed by Harris-Lowe and Smee, and used a capacitance measurement to observe the helium depth in the beaker. To make the capacitance measurements, Harris-Lowe and Smee had taken a highly-sensitive General Radio capacitance bridge and improved the precision of its operation even further by amplifying the out-of-balance signal. In this way they were able to make measurements of the depth of the helium in the beaker with unprecedented precision.

These precise capacitance-based depth measurements could now be used in several different applications. Harris-Lowe and Smee used the method, first, to measure the expansion coefficient of HeII from 0.85K to within 0.4mK of the l temperature, the enhanced measurement precision permitting resolution of discrepancies between competing theoretical treatments. Harris-Lowe and Turkington then turned their attention to the flow rate of the superfluid helium film. Harris-Lowe and Mate at Ohio State University had been the first to observe that the flow rate of HeII out of a filled beaker had specific preferred values, and these had also been observed by Turkington and Edwards soon thereafter at RMC. The increased precision required to make a detailed study of this phenomenon was now available using the capacitance depth gauge. In this way Harris-Lowe and Turkington were able to make sensitive measurements of the preferred rates in the film flow rate, and associate them with the role played by vortex lines in providing the dissipation that determined the flow rates.

A substantial addition to the liquid helium work followed Daunt’s arrival in Kingston. Daunt had retired from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, and arrived in 1974 to spend his “retirement” years in the Kingston area. As has already been mentioned, the Kingston Very Low Temperature Laboratory was then set up as a joint activity of Queen’s University and RMC. It had the purpose of searching for superfluid flow in liquid He3, a topic of great importance for the understanding of the statistical physics of condensed matter. A cryostat for this purpose would be required to attain temperatures around one thousandth of a degree Kelvin, and so the design for the new cryostat incorporated a sophisticated combination of He3 refrigeration and nuclear demagnetization cooling. In association with Dr. J.P. Harrison of the Physics Department at Queen’s University, the cryostat was constructed and tested by the end of 1979. It performed exactly according to specifications and attained a temperature of 1mK. The way was clear for the search for superfluid He3, and the outcome will be described in the next chapter.


After the early start on superconductivity measurements by Baird in the 1950’s, the research on superconductivity in the 1960’s settled into two main areas of intermediate state studies; the penetration of an external magnetic field into bulk superconductors (initially Type I, and later Type II), and the intermediate state of current-carrying superconducting wires.

The penetration of an external field into superconducting discs was studied using a recently-developed optical technique that allowed the experimenter to view the intermediate state directly. To do this, a superconducting disc was placed in a magnetic field oriented along the axis of the disc. The upper surface of the superconducting disc was covered by a cerium-containing glass slab. Illuminating the upper surface with polarized light then resulted in a direct picture of the superconducting regions and the normal regions into which the external field had penetrated. Using these magneto-optic observations, Baird was able to identify clearly for the first time the way in which the magnetic field entered the superconducting specimen in Type I superconductors. Wright joined the superconductivity work at RMC in 1968, and proceeded to revolutionize the magneto-optic technique through the addition of cine-photography. The clarity of Wright’s cinematic images, combined with confirmation from theoretical work at St.Andrews on the model for the interphase boundaries that had been originally proposed by Baird, now left few remaining problems in understanding the penetration of fields into Type-I superconductors. Attention, therefore, soon turned to the Type-II materials that were becoming increasingly important technologically.

In these so-called “hard” superconductors the destruction of superconductivity, either in a current-carrying wire or in a solid specimen in an external magnetic field, was characterized, following the onset of the transition, by sudden jumps in the progress of the transition. These “flux jumps”, as they were called, were particularly significant in the superconducting wires used in the new superconducting solenoids that would soon become indispensable for many techniques requiring high magnetic fields, including such significant examples as Magnetic Resonance Imaging. To investigate the phenomenon of flux jumping Wright used the magneto-optic method to study the penetration of external magnetic fields into superconducting discs of Type II superconductors. Working with R.B. Harrison, who had returned from his D.Phil. work at Oxford to spend the years from 1971 to 1974 at RMC on a military posting to the Physics Department, they extended the cinematic magneto-optic technique to include the high speed cine-photography (at up to 3,000 frames per second) that was necessary to track the rapid flux movement in the flux jumps. In association also with M.R. Wertheimer of Ecole Polytechnique in Montréal, the resulting observations clarified the processes involved in initiating and propagating the invading flux. Wright and Harrison, together with John Pendrys, their Research Associate, continued to study the factors significant for flux instability and demonstrated the stabilising effect of adjacent normal metals. This would become central to the development of commercial superconducting solenoids in the form of “cladding” the superconducting wires with layers of normal metal.

The spectacular movies of flux movement made by Wright and Harrison were shown around the world, and earned them the Medal in the Fundamental Research category at the 6th International Festival of Scientific and Technical Films at Brussels in 1973.

In the meantime, work on the destruction of superconductivity in current-carrying Type I superconducting wires continued research that had been started in St.Andrews while Baird was on sabbatical leave in 1966-67. B.K. Mukherjee, as a doctoral student, had started to work on the longstanding discrepancy between the existing models and observations on the resistance in the intermediate state. Together, Baird and Mukherjee devised a new model for the intermediate state that did agree with the observations. The form of the flux boundaries predicted by the model were later confirmed by direct observation using magneto-optic methods. After completing his Ph.D. at St. Andrews, Mukherjee came to Kingston and continued the work in association with Wiederick. Together they undertook a long series of experimental and theoretical work on currents in superconductors and the kinetics of the superconducting-to-normal transition. Measurements on the time required for the intermediate state to be generated by a current revealed deficiencies in the existing models for the dynamics of flux penetration, and Mukherjee and Wiederick proposed modifications that ultimately resulted in complete agreement between the models and observation.

Defects in solids; internal friction, ultrasonic attenuation, and acoustic emission

It was mentioned in the description of the research of the 1950’s that Hutchison and Filmer had used the newly-available ultrasonic absorption technology in the study of dislocation movement in metals over an extended temperature range. The potential in this sensitive approach to the study of defects in solids was to become clear during the subsequent decades as Hutchison, McBride and their collaborators pursued in many directions, fundamental and applied, the role of defects in the deformation of metals.

The way ahead was charted by Hutchison in a review paper, published in in 1960 in the journal Science, that outlined the various mechanisms by which dislocation movement contributed to the attenuation of sound waves. This was followed by a long series of both experimental and theoretical work by Hutchison and his collaborators. At the outset the existing model of attenuation of sound by dislocation pinning and breakaway by Granato and Lücke was refined and extended, first by Rogers and then by Rogers and David Blair, a Research Associate. These developments of the theory provided much improved correspondence between theory and observation at a wide range of temperature and frequency.

Starting in the early 1970’s the work of the Hutchison group on the effect on sound absorption of dislocation movement in stressed metals was extended to superconductors, which were known to have altered response to stress while in the superconducting state. Measurements of the flow stress, made as superconducting materials were subjected to deformation, enabled the Hutchison group to identify altered thermal conductivity in the superconducting state as the origin of the changed flow stress in superconductors, thereby discriminating between a number of competing theories.

In addition to work on ultrasonic attenuation, McBride became involved in the early 1970’s in the new technique of acoustic emission for studying materials under stress. As materials are deformed under stress, vibrations in the lattice are detectable as sound waves. This acoustic emission can then be analysed to distinguish between differing kinds of defect motion. In particular, it is possible to detect the specific sounds that arise from the growth of the tiny cracks that give rise to fatigue failure. Because of the obvious and pressing requirement to monitor crack growth in aircraft structures, McBride and Hutchison undertook the analysis of emitted sound to enable them to discriminate between the acoustic signature of crack growth and other ambient noise. Central to their work was the development of a technique for calibrating acoustic emission transducers. Without accurate calibration, identification of the crack growth signal in the presence of the ambient noise would not be possible. The technique for calibrating transducers that McBride and Hutchison developed used gas jet excitation. Their process became the subject of several patents and was adopted as an international standard. By the early 1980’s the development of the technique had proceeded to the point that McBride was exploring the feasibility of in-flight monitoring of crack growth, and testing the procedure in a variety of aircraft such as CF-100’s, CF-104’s and Hercules. McBride quickly became a leader in the extensive international effort to study and monitor fatigue failure in aircraft, and was appointed to represent Canada on many international bodies.

Science and the environment

In addition to long-standing involvement in research on liquid helium, Edwards, an enthusiastic bird-watcher and expert photographer of wild-life (appearing in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the first in the world to see at least one species of each of the world’s 159 families of birds), has long applied his scientific expertise to problems in nature and the environment. He came to wide-spread public attention when he was appointed by the Government of Ontario to conduct a one-person Royal Commission to investigate the notorious deaths of ducks on Toronto Island that had been attributed to the use of pesticides. The year was 1969, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had been published only a short time earlier. Edwards thus became one of the early pioneers who gave warning of the public hazards of environmental degradation and pollution. Thereafter he held a continuous succession of appointments to various bodies at the provincial, national and international level. He was, for example, a member of the Environmental Assessment Board of Ontario and of the Ontario Advisory Committee on the Management of Algonquin Park.

Starting in 1975 he occupied over many years a variety of senior positions in the World Conservation Union. He was active in such areas as the impact of humans on the environment, wildlife management, and species survival; energy efficiency and the conservation of natural resources; sustainable development and global warming. In 1976 he was awarded the Conservation Trophy by the Federation of Ontario Naturalists.

Laboratories and Facilities: the Sawyer Building

For most of the College’s existence work in physics had been hindered by inadequate space. Even after the post-war re-opening, the work of the new department had been carried out in office space and research facilities that were scattered over many locations, many of them unpleasant and unsuitable. Harris-Lowe and Turkington, for example, carried our their precise and exacting work on superfluid helium film flow in a dark and noisome dungeon-like space in the basement of the Mackenzie Building that had served in Victorian times as the kitchen for the cadet dining room. From 1960 onwards the responsibilities of the department to the new degree programs made the problem even more urgent. The long-held dream of integrated facilities with research laboratories, offices and undergraduate laboratories conveniently close together was finally achieved in the middle 1970’s with the construction of the Sawyer Building. With Harris-Lowe as the Physics Department’s representative on the building committee the department was assured vigorous and effective representation of its views in the planning of the new space so that for the first time the departmental space could reflect the actual requirements.

This new structure was to be located on the site of the 1930’s “temporary” buildings and so, before space in the new building could become available, the old physics building had to be demolished. Interim accommodation for the undergraduate laboratories during the period 1971-73 fortunately became available in the newly-vacated HMCS Cataraqui building, the original home of the naval reserve unit which had moved into an adjacent new building. These buildings lay on the north side of Highway 2 so that for two years staff and students alike got their exercise in the walk back and forth to the teaching laboratories.

The First and Second Year undergraduate laboratories and the helium liquefaction equipment moved into the initial modules of the Sawyer Building in 1973, and two years later Modules 3 and 4 provided a home for the offices, research laboratories, senior undergraduate laboratories, and other facilities. An aerial view shows the complete Sawyer Building behind the Currie and Mackenzie buildings. The modules are counted from the right hand end (the South East) and the new Physics Department area is visible on floors 3, 4 and 5 in Module 3. The final move into the Sawyer Building represented fulfilment of the decades-long dream of integrated facilities for physics. For the first time in the history of physics at RMC the departmental office, faculty offices, research laboratories and undergraduate laboratories were part of an integrated whole. One of Parkinson’s laws tells us that institutions are on the ascendancy only as long as they remain in temporary quarters. That piece of conventional wisdom, however, failed completely to dampen the enthusiasm of the physics department members as, after years of working in holes and corners, they took possession of their relatively palatial new accommodation, even if, to judge by the miniscule size of the offices assigned to the professors, the architects were revealed as having a very inadequate concept of what professors actually do.

The Physics Department Makes a Contribution to Academic Governance

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, when a vacancy occurred in positions such as department head or dean, it was the normal practice at RMC, as was usual in other universities, for senior administrators to make their own choice of the faculty member to fill the vacancy. During the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, however, a wave of academic reform swept across Ontario. Triggered initially by the “Crowe case” in 1958 in which a professor in the United College in Winnipeg (later to become the University of Winnipeg) was improperly dismissed, universities throughout Ontario and Canada became engaged in a revolution in governance practice by which faculty members became for the first time extensively involved in academic decision-making. As RMC’s contribution to the changing times, Baird in 1969 made a proposal to the Faculty Board that a Faculty Board Committee on College Government be established to examine the problems of university government at RMC specifically. In RMC’s case there were an extra complications in university governance since the College was part of an external agency, DND, and the faculty members were employees of the Public Service. The problem for the RMC faculty was, therefore, to find a productive way of blending these occasionally conflicting requirements. Chaired by Baird the committee operated for approximately one year and studied the situation both internally and externally. It consulted many members of the Defence, University and Public Service communities including senior officials such as Gen. W.G. Milroy, then Chief of Personnel, and Dr. R.J. Uffen, then Scientific Advisor to the Privy Council. In 1970 the Committee produced a final report which was accepted by the Faculty Board. It recommended improvements in internal governance of the Colleges in areas such as procedures for appointing heads of departments and deans, and also in methods of communication between the Colleges and other areas of DND.

The procedures for choosing department heads and deans was a particularly sensitive issue and the committee recommended a new practice of using faculty-based search committees to choose replacements for retiring department heads and deans. Although accepted by the Faculty Board itself, this proposal, like others for beneficial improvement, lay unimplemented for some time. Eventually, in 1972 there appeared an opportune moment to encourage its adoption. At this time, Hutchison, the Head of the Physics Department, was also serving as a Dean and decided to resign the department Headship in order to concentrate his attention on his responsibilities as Dean. Fortunately, the circumstances of the replacement provided the opportunity for the Physics Department to insist that the position be filled in accordance with the search committee procedure that had been proposed by the Baird Committee and accepted by the Faculty Board. Under the circumstances, the Principal had no option but to follow the Faculty Board Committee’s recommendations. The first search committee in RMC history was appointed, and thereupon the complete procedure required in the Faculty Board report. Following the search committee’s recommendation, Baird was appointed as the new Head of Department. This insistence by the Physics Department on proper procedures thereby set a precedent that successfully guided faculty appointment procedures across the College as a whole for many years. Since the opportunity was taken at the same time to adopt the principle of limited terms for administrative appointments, the college was also preserved from future geriatric atrophy in administration, a condition that was in those days not unknown in academic institutions. Though this was the first use of a committee for the appointment of a new head of department, the recommendations of the Baird report regarding administrative appointments were only partially implemented. The similar recommendation regarding the appointment of Deans had to wait until a later opportunity.

Graduate Studies

Although the College from its re-opening in 1948 had encouraged and supported research, one important component remained missing. Financed by funds from the Defence Research Board (later re-structured under the Chief of Research and Development), research assistants at various levels from undergraduate summer assistants to post-doctoral research associates had provided indispensable support for the research programs over the years. There were, however, no graduate students, one of the almost essential components of a university department, and the RMC Physics Department had long sought the opportunity to prepare students for a Master’s degree in physics. As early as 1959, when the College received its authority to grant degrees, the newly-created Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Dr. J.R. Dacey, had proposed regulations for the granting of graduate degrees. Gen. W.A.B. Anderson, the Commandant in 1962, also strongly urged NDHQ to approve the extension of the College’s mandate to cover graduate studies and the granting of graduate degrees. By the late 1960’s graduate degrees were being awarded in engineering and arts to serving officers whose next posting specified such advanced qualifications.

For the Physics Department, however, the absence of a stated requirement for graduate work in physics for any Canadian Forces classification made it hard to find candidates. However, the first opportunity for graduate studies in physics occurred when a member of the Air Traffic Controller Branch presented himself at the Department of Physics. Although a Master’s degree in physics had not been identified by the Branch as a requirement, he had persuaded his Career Manager to allow him time off for graduate studies, and was requesting admission to a Master’s program in physics. In this way, Capt. George Arajs became the Physics Department’s first graduate student. Graduate courses were quickly devised, and with Harris-Lowe as his supervisor Arajs worked on flow rates in liquid helium, obtaining his M.Sc. in 1978. His pioneering thesis was entitled Energy Dissipation in Liquid HeII Film Flow.

In the meantime, Hutchison and McBride, who had a very close connection with the groups in DND concerned with aircraft maintenance, had initiated a graduate program in Materials Science. Two candidates were enrolled in the Materials Science graduate program. Major D.H. Harold graduated in 1979, with Capt. B.P. Paradis following in 1980.

In the following years the Department maintained a small operation in graduate studies in both low temperature physics and materials science. Further development had to await the major changes in the department that would take place in 1995.

The College becomes Bilingual

Following the development of the Federal Government’s institution of bilingualism policies in the early 1970’s, the College was required both to provide second language training to all students, and to offer almost all courses in both official languages. This very large increase in the teaching commitment entailed a substantial addition to the faculty that would be achieved in stages during 1976 and 1977.

The French-language teaching in the Physics Department actually started in 1974. Mukherjee, who since 1969 had been a Research Associate with Wiederick and Baird, was the only department member fluent in French (his early education in India had taken place in Pondicherry where the European language was French), and in the 1974-75 academic year he taught in French the entire set of Third Year physics courses in the Engineering Physics program – no mean feat for one’s debut in professorial duties!

In the subsequent years, the extension of the French-language teaching to all four years required continuous increases in staffing, and in the years 1976 and 1977 the Physics Department added a total of five new members. The department was very fortunate in being able to make such a contribution to the vitality of the faculty, especially since it came at a time when the other universities, having completed the expansion of the 1960’s, were unable to add new faculty members for many years.

The first francophone member to join the permanent staff was Jacques Gosselin. Gosselin was a graduate in Génie Physique from Ecole Polytechnique in Montréal who obtained his Ph.D. at Cornell working with John Silcox in the field of superconductivity. He then spent six years engaged in metallurgical research under Michael Townsend, Head of the Solid State group at the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in Ottawa, and thereafter joined RMC as the first physics department francophone staff member. Thereafter the department was joined by Mukherjee (now in a full-time professorial position), André Lachaîne, Napoléon Gauthier and Paul Rochon. Lachaîne came from the University of Ottawa where he had completed first his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and then a Ph.D. with Marcel Leblanc in superconductivity. Rochon also came to RMC from the University of Ottawa where he too had obtained his Ph.D. in solid state physics. Gauthier was a graduate of Université Laval and the University of Toronto where he had completed his Ph.D.in theoretical solid state physics. For many years, as the lone theoretical physicist in the department, Gauthier would, in addition to pursuing his own theoretical work, use his many talents to provide theoretical support in a wide variety of research areas.

One further change came in 1978 with the termination of Baird’s term as department Head. The use of the faculty committees for appointment of department Heads was now routine, and the new Head selected for the Department of Physics was Martin Edwards. A departmental photograph dating from 1980 shows the department with Edwards as department Head and with the new francophone members.

Such changes and the arrival of this substantial addition to the department naturally had a profound effect on the collective expertise within the department, and consequently on the department’s teaching and research. Other changes, too, would follow and the new era will be the subject of the following chapter.

First Installment


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