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.
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.
Beatrice Helen Worsley, computer scientist, professor (born 18 October 1921 in Queretaro, Mexico; died 8 May 1972 in Waterloo, Ontario). Worsley was a pioneering researcher in the emerging field of computer science. She conducted research and taught at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Worsley is considered to be the first female computer scientist in Canada and was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Association of Computer Science in 2014.
Martha Eva Salcudean (née Abel), OC, OBC, professor of mechanical engineering (born 26 February 1934 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania). Salcudean is an internationally recognized authority on computational fluid dynamics and heat transfer. In 1985, she became the first female head of a Canadian university’s engineering department when she was named chair of the department of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. Salcudean has dedicated much of her academic career to forging research and development partnerships between universities, government agencies and industrial associates in sectors such as mining, forestry and aeronautics.
Alice Evelyn Wilson, MBE, geologist, paleontologist (born 26 August 1881 in Cobourg, ON; died 15 April 1964 in Ottawa, ON). Educated at the Universities of Toronto and Chicago, Wilson spent her entire professional career, from 1909 to 1946, with the Geological Survey of Canada. She was Canada’s first female geologist and the recognized authority on the fossils and rock of the Ottawa-St. Lawrence Valley. While she repeatedly faced barriers as a woman in a profession dominated by men, Wilson was gradually recognized for her work through various honours, including becoming the first female Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1938.
Philip J. Currie, palaeontologist, museum curator (born 13 March 1949 in Brampton, ON). In the early 1980s, Currie played a lead role in the founding of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta. He later became the namesake of another institution, the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, which opened in September 2015 near Grande Prairie, Alberta. Much of Currie’s research has focussed on fossils from Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park and other Cretaceous sites, as well as the evolution of carnivorous dinosaurs and the origin of birds.
Boris Peter Stoicheff, physics professor (b at Bitola, Yugoslavia 1 June 1924). A specialist in spectroscopy, laser physics and nonlinear optics, he is known for his innovative use of lasers. After receiving a PhD from U of T in 1950 he joined the National Research Council of Canada in 1951.
Theodore Lionel Sourkes, OC, biochemist, neuropsychopharmacologist (born 21 February 1919 in Montréal, QC; died 17 January 2015 in Montréal, QC). One of Canada's great scholars, he became professor of psychiatry at McGill in 1965 and director of the neurochemistry laboratory at the Allan Memorial Institute of Psychiatry; in 1970 he was appointed professor of biochemistry, retiring in 1991. He was a prime mover in the establishment of biochemical psychiatry as an accurate discipline.
Loris Shano Russell, palaeontologist (born 21 April 1904 in Brooklyn, New York; died 6 July 1998 in Toronto, ON). Over the course of his career, Russell served as a palaeontologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, as professor of geology at the University of Toronto, and in various roles at the National Museums of Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum. Russell was among the first to suggest that dinosaurs might have been warm-blooded, his most significant contribution to the field of palaeontology.
John Larkin Kerwin, physicist, research director (born 22 June 1924 in Québec City, Québec; died 1 May 2004 in Québec City). Kerwin joined Laval's physics department in 1946 after study at St Francis Xavier, U of T and Massachusetts Inst of Technology and, after earning his DSc at Laval, rose to become its rector in 1972.
Bertram Neville Brockhouse, physicist (born 15 July 1918 in Lethbridge, AB; died 13 October 2003 in Hamilton, ON). Brockhouse pioneered the use of thermal neutrons to study structural, dynamical and magnetic aspects of the behaviour of condensed matter systems at an atomic level.