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.
Victoria Michelle (Vicky) Kaspi, CC, FRSC, FRS, astrophysicist (born 30 June 1967 in Austin, Texas). Kaspi is best known for her studies of collapsed stars such as neutron stars and pulsars. In 2016, she became the first woman to win the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, the country’s top science prize awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
Isabella Preston, plant hybridist, horticulturist, writer, civil servant (born 4 September 1881 in Lancaster, England; died 31 January 1965 in Georgetown, Ontario). Throughout her career in the male-dominated field of horticulture, she produced approximately 200 ornamental hybrids suited for the Canadian climate. She is best known for her hybrid George C. Creelman lily.
An astronaut is an individual involved in flight beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the Canadian Space Agency held its first recruitment campaign in 1983, 14 Canadians have completed astronaut training and eight have participated in 16 missions to space. Specifically, they have flown as payload specialists, mission specialists, and flight engineers on NASA shuttle flights and expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS). Canadian astronauts have played key roles in repairing satellites and building the ISS using the Canadarm and Canadarm2 robotic technologies, and have advanced scientific knowledge by conducting a variety of experiments in space.
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.
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).
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.”
Boucar Diouf, CQ, scientist, teacher, writer, poet, storyteller, comedian and columnist (born 26 May 1965 in Fatick, Senegal). Diouf is beloved for his inspired, sincere and relatable outlook. In his books and monologues, Diouf explores the themes of immigration and integration into Quebec society. As an educator, Diouf manages to defuse controversial subjects by using humour and shining a philosophical light on them.
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.
Herbert Edward Terrick Haultain, mining engineer, educator (b at Brighton, Eng 9 Aug 1869; d at Toronto 19 Sept 1961). A graduate of U of T who acquired practical mining experience in Europe, he returned to Canada in 1905 as professor of mining and engineering at U of T.
George Hunt, ethnographer and museum acquisitions collector (born 14 February 1854 in Fort Rupert, BC; died there September 1933). He is best known for his work with anthropologist Franz Boas; together they documented the language, rituals and customs of Hunt’s people, the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl). Hunt's rich ethnographic notes and artifact collections provided the first ethno-history of the Kwakwaka'wakw culture.
George Lawson, botanist (b at Logan, Scot 12 Oct 1827; d at Halifax 10 Nov 1895). Lawson studied natural and physical sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Assistant secretary and curator for the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, he also worked in Britain's first biological laboratory.