The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (née Flach), nurse, author, ornithologist (born 30 January 1896 in Sweden; died 27 April 1992 in North Bay, ON). Swedish Canadian Louise de Kiriline Lawrence was a Red Cross nurse in Europe during the First World War. She and her Russian husband, Gleb Nikoleyevich Kirilin, were captured by Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War and interned in concentration camps; only Louise survived. In the 1920s she immigrated to Canada as part of a Red Cross initiative in the North. A pioneer of health care in Northern Ontario, she was head nurse for the Dionne Quintuplets from 1934 to 1935. Following her retirement from nursing, she became the award-winning author of seven books and hundreds of scientific papers and a world-class ornithologist. She married Canadian Leonard Lawrence in 1939.
Margaret Anne Wilson Thompson, human geneticist (born at Northwich, England 7 January 1920, died 3 November 2014 in Toronto, ON). She obtained a BA in 1943 from the University of Saskatchewan and a PhD in 1948 from the University of Toronto, where she studied under the pioneering human geneticist Norma Ford Walker.
Victor John Harding, professor of pathological chemistry (b in Eng 23 Oct 1885; d at Toronto 3 July 1934). Graduating in chemistry from Owen's College, Manchester (DSc, 1912), Harding began an association with McGill in 1910. He became associate professor of physiological chemistry in 1917.
Hardolph Wasteneys, professor of biochemistry (b at Richmond, Eng Apr 1881; d at Toronto 1 Feb 1965). As a boy Wasteneys went to Australia and found employment in government laboratories dealing with water purification. He moved to California about 1909 to study this subject further.
Robert William Stewart, scientist (born at Smoky Lake, Alta 21 Aug 1923; died at Victoria, BC, 19 January 2005). Robert Stewart was known internationally for original work in turbulence, oceanography and meteorology, and was a recognized authority on exchange processes between ocean and atmosphere.
Julie Payette, CC, CMM, COM, CQ, CD, astronaut, engineer, jet pilot, musician (born 20 October 1963 in Montréal, QC). Payette participated in two space flights to the International Space Station, STS-96 (1999) and STS-127 (2009), and served as the chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency from 2000 to 2007. In 1999, she became the first Canadian to board the International Space Station. An accomplished scientific authority, musician and athlete, Payette is a board member of Own the Podium and a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s board of directors. In July 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Payette will become Canada’s 29th governor general, succeeding David Johnston. Payette became Governor General on 2 October 2017.
Steven Glenwood MacLean, FRCGS, physicist, astronaut (born 14 December 1954 in Ottawa, ON). Steve MacLean was among the first astronauts recruited in Canada and in 1992 became the third Canadian to fly in space. On his second mission to space (2006), he became the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm2 robotic arm and the second to complete a spacewalk, after Chris Hadfield. He has also contributed to the country’s space programs as director general of the Canadian Astronaut Program (1994–96) and president of the Canadian Space Agency (2008–13).
Andrew John Weaver, OBC, FRSC, leader of the BC Green Party 2015–present, climate scientist (born 16 November 1961 in Victoria, BC). Andrew Weaver is a leading climate change researcher who has made historic gains for the Green Party of British Columbia in his second career as a politician. In 2013, he was elected the province’s first Green MLA. In 2017, he led the Greens to three seats. After the 2017 election, he engineered a power-sharing deal with the BC New Democratic Party and toppled the Liberal government of Christy Clark to help John Horgan become premier.
John Richard (Dick) Bond, OC, OOnt, FRS, FRSC, cosmologist (born 15 May 1950 in Toronto, ON). Bond is known for his work in astrophysics and cosmology, especially for his investigations of the early universe. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has described him as “a Godfather of Canada’s now vibrant internationally recognized theoretical cosmology community.”
Evelyn Merle Roden Nelson, mathematician, professor (born 25 November 1943 in Hamilton, ON; died 1 August 1987 in Hamilton, ON). A brilliant mathematical mind, Evelyn Nelson fought gender barriers in a discipline long dominated by men to become a rising star in the field both in Canada and abroad. She contributed to the fields of universal algebra, equational compactness and formal language theory. Nelson was particularly interested in applying universal algebra to the then-burgeoning field of computer science. She was a devoted teacher, sought-after research partner and the author of over 40 publications during what was a tragically short career.
Cypra Cecilia Krieger, mathematician, professor (born 9 April 1894 in Jasło, Galicia [Poland]; died 17 August 1974 in Toronto, ON). Krieger was the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics from a Canadian university (the University of Toronto) and only the third person to be awarded a mathematics doctorate in Canada. She taught mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto for over 30 years. Krieger is best known for her English translation of noted mathematical texts Introduction to General Typology and General Typology.
Helen Battles Sawyer Hogg (née Sawyer), CC, astronomer and educator (born 1 August 1905 in Lowell, Massachusetts; died 28 January 1993 in Toronto, ON). Recognized internationally for her research on globular star clusters, Helen Sawyer Hogg significantly advanced astronomers’ understanding of the location and age of stars as well as the origins and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way. She also contributed greatly to the Canadian public’s understanding of astronomy and inspired women to enter scientific professions.4
Veena Rawat, OC, electrical engineer, civil servant, telecommunications pioneer (born in 1945 in India). Veena Rawat spent nearly 40 years in public service, serving in leadership positions in management and policy development with Industry Canada. A trailblazer in the telecommunications sector, Rawat was the first female to complete a doctorate in electrical engineering at Queen’s University and was the first female president of Industry Canada’s Communication Research Centre. Rawat has been a leading voice in the creation of global regulatory structures for radio spectrum management, championing efforts to make broadband service affordable to all and bring it to remote and rural regions. She is an advocate for gender equality in STEM sectors and increasing women’s presence in engineering fields.
Clara Cynthia Benson, professor of chemistry (born in 1875 in Port Hope, ON; died 24 March 1964 in Port Hope). In 1899, Benson became the first woman to graduate in chemistry from the University of Toronto. In 1903, she became one of the first two women awarded a PhD at U of T. After graduating with her doctorate, she worked at U of T’s Lillian Massey School of Domestic Science, becoming one of the university’s first female professors in 1920. A capable teacher who stimulated research and was a friend to her students, Benson taught at the school until her retirement in 1945. The Benson Building at U of T was named in recognition of her efforts to obtain better athletic facilities for women students.
Norma Ford Walker (née Ford), human geneticist (born 3 September 1893 in St. Thomas, ON; died 9 August 1968 in Toronto, ON). Ford Walker completed a PhD in zoology in 1923 at the University of Toronto, and as a faculty member became interested in human genetics. She established her reputation as an authority on multiple births with her research on the Dionne quintuplets. Her publications in genetics contributed to knowledge of a number of childhood genetic conditions and to the application of dermatoglyphics to clinical diagnosis. Through her work and that of her graduate students, who included the first appointees in human genetics at several Canadian universities, Ford Walker had a lasting influence on the national development of human genetics in medicine and as an academic discipline.