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History of the Faculty of Science

History of the Faculty of Science

The study of science at McGill goes back almost two centuries, when the lower campus was a rough and muddy cow pasture and the University struggled to establish itself. In 1855, the job of principal was given to a Nova Scotia–born geologist, John William Dawson. When he arrived at McGill, Dawson laid out plans for walks and roads, and at his own expense arranged the planting of trees on the entrance avenue. More importantly, Dawson worked diligently to transform McGill from a poorly equipped provincial college into one of the best scientific institutions in the world. In 1882, he successfully lobbied for the creation of the Royal Society of Canada and brought international renown to McGill.

In the century and a half since Dawson steered the Faculty of Science onto the path of excellence, the Faculty has received numerous honours for its groundbreaking research, including Nobel prizes to seven Science alumni or Faculty members, as well as over 100 fellowships in the Royal Society of Canada. More importantly, McGill’s scientists have made the world a better place in which to live and have provided answers to the deepest mysteries facing humanity. Examples of McGill’s breakthroughs include the world’s first effective anti-retroviral HIV drug, the theory explaining photosynthesis, and the discovery of the fastest-spinning pulsar in the known universe.

McGill’s Faculty of Science has a long tradition of discovery and innovation that no other Canadian university, and only a handful of U.S. schools can match. Our long tradition of scientific leadership, and the illustrious roster of McGill researchers who changed the world—Sir Ernest Rutherford, Harriet Brooks, Ronald Melzak, Bernard Belleau, Leo Yaffe, and Vicky Kaspi, to name only a few—are key attributes.

The Faculty of Science’s roots are not only strong, but they display a deep commitment to excellence. Whether it’s bringing the best scientists in the world to our new Life Sciences Complex, or studying and suggesting ways in which we can help heal the Earth’s fragile ecosystem, the Faculty remains committed to Dawson’s vision of bringing the best to the world.

Faculty of Science—2013-2014 (last updated Feb. 26, 2013) (disclaimer)