Vote for the Greatest McGillians

At a time when architects and designers were producing “modern” designs no matter the cost, Percy Erskine Nobbs stood by his belief that new buildings should look like they had always been there ...

Maude Abbott (1869 – 1940)

Pioneering Pathologist

Of course, Maude Abbott is an important historical figure because she opened the door for women to practise medicine in Quebec. But her life story also illustrates the enormous challenges her era posed to women in general. In 1890, she became one of the first women to obtain a bachelor’s degree from McGill. Despite her exemplary record, however, she was subsequently denied admission to the University’s medical school. Still she persevered, earning a medical degree from Bishop’s College in 1894.

John Abbott, (1821–1893)

John Abbott, the third prime minister of Canada, famously said “I hate politics” but in fact, he meant that he hated the sideshow that surrounded politics. In the same sentence he affirmed that he did care very deeply about “doing public work to the best of my ability.”

Mike Babcock (1963– )

NHL Coach

Mike Babcock has racked up success after success as a professional hockey coach. His career is packed with “firsts” and “bests” at every level he has coached at.

Burt Bacharach (1926 – )

Many who hum his hits have no idea that a great McGill grad is behind the catchy refrains, and yet there are very few stars in the musical realm who can boast as wide-ranging, influential, and long-lived a career as Burt Bacharach.

Bernard Belleau (1925 – 1989)

Co-Developer of Anti-AIDS Drug 3TC

How’s this for an achievement: participating in a discovery that is credited with saving over two million lives. Bernard Belleau, along with colleagues Francesco Bellini and Gervais Dionne, developed 2,3 dideoxy – 3-thiacytidine, 3TC for short. The drug slows the spread of AIDS within the body. Perhaps almost as important, it achieves this without the debilitating side effects patients had previously experienced with other drugs.

Willard Boyle (1924–2011)

Willard Boyle won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009 for helping develop a device that, as the New York Times put it, is “at the heart of virtually every camcorder, digital camera and telescope in use.” That piece of technology was the charge-coupled device or CCD, invented with with George E. Smith, his colleague at Bell Laboratories.

Rosemary Brown (1930–2003)

Rosemary Brown was the first black woman to hold public office in Canada when there were very few women of any colour in positions of power.

After emigrating to Canada in 1951, she studied at McGill University and the University of British Columbia, initially pursuing a career in social worker.

Thomas Chang (1933 – )

Inventor of Artificial Blood Cell

Thomas Chang embodies the drive and ambition that has always been the hallmark of McGill students. In 1956, while living in Douglas Hall, he invented the world’s first artificial blood cell in his dorm room. Working with improvised materials, Chang created a permeable plastic sack that would effectively carry hemoglobin almost as effectively as a natural blood cell.

Thomas H. Clark (1893 – 1996)

Celebrated Geologist

Thomas H. Clark has been called one of Canada’s great scientists of the 20th century and is probably the only person on this list to have a mineral (Thomasclarkite) named in his honour. The geology of the Saint-Laurent Lowlands was his major lifetime work and laid the foundations for all subsequent mapping and research studies in the area. He authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific publications. He also co-wrote, with C.W.

Leonard Cohen (1934 – )

Renowned Poet and Singer-Songwriter

His words are legendary. Leonard Cohen’s poetry – often delivered in his own unmistakable baritone – has inspired readers and listeners, mended broken hearts, and closed down bars for nearly 60 years. A McGill graduate (BA’55) and honorary degree recipient (DLitt’92), Cohen published his first book of poetry in 1956, which contained work he had produced while at the University. Since that time, he has established himself as a legendary singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist.