Margaret Newton, FRSC, plant pathologist (born 20 April 1887 in Montreal, QC; died 6 April 1971 in Victoria, BC). Margaret Newton was a pioneer for women in agricultural science. Throughout her career, she enhanced knowledge of wheat rust, which could result in crop loss and negatively impact the Canadian economy (see Wheat; Agricultural Economics).
Margaret Newton completed her Bachelor of Science in agriculture (1918) and her Master of Science (1919) at McGill University’s Macdonald College (see Agricultural Education). While still a student, Newton worked on a scientific survey of wheat rust in Canada, following the wheat stem rust epidemic of 1916 (see Wheat; Crop Research).
Newton earned her PhD in agriculture from the University of Minnesota in 1922. She is reportedly the first Canadian woman to earn a PhD in agricultural science.
Margaret Newton joined the Dominion Rust Research Laboratory in Winnipeg when it was created in 1925. (See also Crop Research; Agricultural Research and Development.) Her research in association with John Hubert Craigie is summarized in Thorvaldur Johnson’s Rust Research in Canada and Related Plant-Disease Investigations (1961) and Ibra Lockwood Conners's Plant Pathology in Canada (1972). In 1933 she was invited to the Soviet Union to discuss her work with wheat rust (see Wheat). She retired in 1945 owing to ill health, perhaps caused by 25 years of exposure to rust-disease spores.
Margaret Newton never married and reportedly would work until near exhaustion - and then relax with foreign travel or strenuous canoe expeditions (see Canoeing).
Margaret Newton is recognized for her extensive research on wheat rust. She is also recognized as a trailblazer for women in STEM.
A women's residence hall at the University of Victoria is named in Margaret Newton’s memory. She was designated a national historic person by the Government of Canada in 1997.
Honours and Awards
- Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (1942)
- Flavelle Medal, Royal Society of Canada (1948)
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Saskatchewan (1969)
- Inductee, Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame (1991)