Guthrie awarded $100,000 Killam Prize

Guthrie awarded $100,000 Killam Prize McGill University

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McGill Reporter
March 30, 2006 - Volume 38 Number 14
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 38: 2005-2006 > March 30, 2006 > Guthrie awarded $100,000 Killam Prize

Guthrie awarded $100,000 Killam Prize

Like so many virtuosi, Roderick Guthrie can trace his lifelong passion back to an early accident that left him bedridden. "I was quite a fan of Captain Hornblower and loved making model sailing ships," the veteran McGill metallurgist recalled of his boyhood in England. "So, at 16 I figured out how to make my own cannon... I literally blew my own kneecap off, had six weeks off school and had to write an essay on metals. I became absolutely fascinated."

His essay won the school contest and Guthrie pursued his passion for metal processing to Imperial College in London and onto a 30-year career at McGill that recently earned him a $100,000 Killam Prize - Canada's most prestigious award for lifetime achievement in research - for engineering.

Among his other accomplishments, Guthrie, director of the McGill Metals Processing Centre, developed a technique for metal processing that has assured quality control in products worldwide from soft drink cans to refrigerators to Boeing 747s to high-performance cars. He's also authored over 400 publications, holds some 200 patents and has received many awards, including 22 best paper awards.

A leader in a field most people have a street-level familiarity with but rarely think twice about, Guthrie talks about metallurgy with an enthusiasm that borders on infectious. "Steel and aluminum are ubiquitous and there are hundred of problems and hundreds of technical solutions: they're the building blocks of modern society," he said. What's the difference between a metallurgist and an outstanding metallurgist?

"I really like to work with the industry and I really like to tackle everyday problems... how do you make sheet metal better, stronger and cheaper?"

And what will he do with the $100,000 prize? "Pay off the debts that I owe on my NSERC grants," he laughed. "That's what the accounting department has suggested. Then again, I'll probably use it to pay off the mortgage."

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