Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Physics and the Rise of Scientific Research in Canada

Physics and the Rise of Scientific Research in Canada

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Physics and the Rise of Scientific Research in Canada
    Book Description:

    The teaching of engineering and a change in liberal arts curricula, both stimulated by industrial growth, encouraged the creation of specialized courses in the sciences. By the 1890s, Gingras argues, trained researchers had begun to appear in Canadian universities. The technological demands of the First World War and the founding, in 1916, of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) accelerated the growth of scientific research. The Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada could no longer publish everything submitted to it because of the disproportionately large number of research papers from the fields of science. In response, the NRC created the Canadian Journal of Research, a journal specifically dedicated to the publication of scientific research. By 1930, a stable, national system of scientific research was in place in Canada.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6281-3
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    The status accorded research in the present-day university may give the impression that, along with teaching, the production of new knowledge has always been one of the essential functions of this institution. However,the conception of the modern university as both a research and a teaching institution is relatively recent. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the university was, generally speaking, a teaching institution which trained “men of character” in law, medicine, and theology. A professor was defined above all as a teacher and devoted himself to his courses and his students; the qualitities valued were eloquence, erudition and paedagogical...


    • CHAPTER ONE From Teaching to Research
      (pp. 11-35)

      During the second half of the nineteenth century, physics teaching in Canadian universities underwent important changes. From “natural philosophy,” which was taught to all students in arts faculties and which required only the services of a professor trained according to the traditional bachelor of arts model, we move to the establishment of physics departments located in premises which, although not always entirely devoted to the purposes of this discipline, had sufficient space for the installation of laboratories where students could take momentary leave of their textbooks and be introduced to the techniques of experimental physics.

      The major cause of this...

    • CHAPTER TWO Finding Resources
      (pp. 36-66)

      In the preceding chapter, we followed the scholarly trajectories of science professors in the principal Canadian universities so as to observe the the emergence of a new generation of scientists who, trained in Europe, imported a new practice into Canadian institutions. It is now necessary to take a closer look at what may be termed the “material conditions of production,” which allowed first H.L. Callendar, Ernest Rutherford, and J.G. MacGregor and subsequently their successors to work as researchers.At the end of the nineteenth century, there was no room in the university structure for “research,” which the new heirs wished to...

    • CHAPTER THREE Growth and Diversification of Research
      (pp. 67-82)

      In varying degrees, university research in most disciplines - with the exception of mathematics, which, prior to the Second World War, did not fall within the NRC’S mandate - owed a good part of its development to the possibilty offered by the NRC of establishing research teams which permitted the reproduction of the discipline. While this debt cannot be demonstrated in detail for each discipline, it is possible to compare the relative positions of Canadian universities with regard to scientific research on the basis of grants received from the NRC by individual researchers. Within this general framework, detailed study of...


    • CHAPTER FOUR Adjusting the Royal Society of Canada
      (pp. 85-101)

      The first two decades of this century saw the establishment of institutional structures within Canadian universities that allowed researchers to do research on a regular basis and to train new recruits. This development, already examined, made possible the existence of physicists as a group. However, exchanging and diffusing of research results were required if physicists were to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in physics and to obtain international recognition for their contributions.

      Thus at the same time as they were establishing the means of production within their universities, the first Canadian physicists sought also to modify the Royal Society...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Birth of the Canadian Journal of Research
      (pp. 102-114)

      While John Patterson was presenting his report to the Royal Society of Canada in May 1923, members of the NRC were discussing the financial aid accorded the society annually since 1919 for publication of scientific papers and had concluded that “the desired objective could be better obtained by some other method, and that no further grants should be made to the Royal Society of Canada for this purpose.”¹ The members of the Associate Committee on Physics and Engineering Physics did not agree. They believed that “the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada is the only established medium for general...


    • CHAPTER SIX In Search of a Collective Voice
      (pp. 117-126)

      As we have already seen, the “physicist” as we today know and recognize him or her, has not always existed. In order to have a complete social existence, the “physicist” had to be “born” twice. First, there had to be agents whose practice was based more on research than on teaching and whose emergence I analysed in chapter 1. However, it was also necessary, and this is the second “birth,” that this practice of physics define a group recognized as socially distinct from other categories of social agents. In other words, in order to be thought of socially, physicists had...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Profession or Discipline?
      (pp. 127-137)

      During the 1930s there was a noticeable increase in the number of master’s and doctoral graduates, as well as of those who held an honours bachelors degree in physics and who had found employment in Canadian industry. According to a study carried out by Statistics Canada in 1939, in collaboration with the NRC, eight physicists were employed in provincial research laboratories, thirty-one in dominion laboratories, seven in municipal laboratories, and thirty-eight in industrial laboratories.¹ During the Second World War, the number of positions grew considerably. At the NRC, for example, only fifteen physicists had positions as researchers in 1939, while,...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Representing the Discipline
      (pp. 138-149)

      Unable to charter a profession, the directors of the Canadian Association of Physicists redefined their objectives after 1951 and conceived of CAP as a site for information exchange among researchers. This turnabout had been simple: because the majority of the membership was academic, members were sensitive more to issues in communication in research than to problems in labour relations, negotiations which concerned only a minority. Moreover, the most concrete realization of the association since 1945 had been the annual meeting, bringing together Canadian physicists to discuss the latest developments in their discipline. In September 1945, the organizing committee of the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 150-154)

    The description of the efforts made by the first generation of researchers to modify the functioning of the institutions to which they were attached and to adapt them to their needs should not be read as the activities of a group that was well constituted from the very beginning and sought to impose its hegemony. On the contrary, the changes described here are an integral part of the formation of the group of Canadian physicists and of the corresponding discipline. Although this study has concentrated on a particular case, it seems clear that many scientific disciplines have emerged out of...

  10. Statistical Appendix
    (pp. 155-164)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 165-198)
  12. Index
    (pp. 199-203)