Department History

One Hundred Years of Physics at the Ontario Agricultural College and the University of Guelph

J. L. Hunt, Dept. of Physics, University of Guelph*


The Ontario Agricultural College was established as a division of the Ontario Department of Agriculture in 1874. The establishment was as contentious an issue as could be found in Ontario politics a century ago, and a quarter century of scandal, political interference, jobbing, and internal strife almost prematurely terminated the College before it could make its presence felt in the agricultural community.

A succession of Ministers of Agriculture viewed O.A.C. as a patronage pool and ruled the institution directly from the ministerial office. This was accomplished, in large part, by maintaining a divided administration. The President had authority over the academic courses but the Professor of Agriculture, with equal authority, was in charge of the farm and the student's practical education; the latter was considered far more necessary by the students, the minister, and by the farming community. The first two Professors of Agriculture were men of strong opinion and absolutely opposed to very much academic training. The first, William Brown certainly had no high regard for theoretical science. He declared

"Chemistry was what led the British farmer astray we teach agriculture not languages, nor military tactics, nor even higher mathematics or mechanics; we teach and do not lecture."

Actually he exaggerated, they taught languages English which many of the students, with only primary schooling at best, lacked; today it is called being "functionally illiterate". Mathematics was also taught, not the "higher" kind but Mathematics nonetheless; after all, accounts must be kept, weights must be determined and fields measured, levelled, and fenced. He was correct about mechanics for a few years at least.

When the first faculty were appointed some of them could remember the pioneer clearings and log houses; Guelph had been founded just 53 years previously and by 1874 was a town of 8000 people. Even so, virtually all farmers were using American or domestic farm machinery and, although the horse provided most of the motive power, the steam thresher was not unknown. Farming had advanced beyond the stage of an ignorant peasantry following age old rituals, to an appreciation of the benefits of new methods and the application of new technology.

Advanced as the province was in general education, some of the students from the rural schools were rather ill prepared for college level courses. Great deficiencies in basic skills had to be corrected and this explains the large amount of English and Mathematics that was taught. The first two Presidents, William Johnson (1874-79) and James Mills (1879-1904) were not much involved with the scientific and practical subjects, but concerned themselves with English to which they devoted a great deal of attention. The courses in Mathematic s were very humble, reflecting the average proficiency of the students entering the College. They were, in fact, courses in elementary arithmetic and geometry. It is not surprising that in such a practical climate, and with such students, while tolerating Chemistry and Mathematics, there would be no place for Physics.

Prehistory 1874-1894

No topic which could be called "Physics" appeared in the curriculum at the School of Agriculture during the first four years, but in 1877 Peter H. Bryce became the Professor of Chemistry, and Physics topics appeared in his course in 1878. Bryce was a Gold Medallist in science at the University of Toronto where Physics, under the direction of Professor James Louden, held a prominent place in the curriculum. In 1878 James Hoyes Panton also a medallist at Toronto, was hired and along with Bryce taught several topics in Physics and Meteorology. By 1882 both of these excellent men had resigned because of niggardly salaries and pursued successful careers elsewhere. The problem of non-competative salaries plagued the Presidents for years and resulted in a constant flow through the College of short-term lecturers.

In the middle of the school year 1883 the last of a series of lecturers in mathematics resigned and a replacement was found in Mr. Edward Lawrence Hunt who had completed three years of the undergraduate program at the University of Toronto but had not taken a degree. Hunt was probably the most colourful and controversial person ever to serve at Guelph and was an important cause of ten years of confusion and scandal which ended only after his resignation and a public Commission of Inquiry.

When Hunt was appointed he was younger than some of the students he was instructing and suffered greatly at their hands from pranks and considerable physical abuse. He seems to have decided on a strategy of ingratiating himself with the students by positioning himself as the only academically of the Professor of Agriculture in his struggle to take effective control of the institution away from the President. Since this was also the wish of most (but not the best) of the students, he quickly became their favourite. By 1892 the College was in turmoil with student petitions being got up on many topics including one against Hunt himself which seems to have included some of the better students as signatories. Hunt was forced to resign in November of that year and took up divinity studies full time at Knox College. Again a Mathematics Lecturer and Assistant Residence Master had to be found in short order and again as was usual the President had no say in the matter.

The Minister appointed John McCrae1 whose father, Capt. David McCrae of Guelph, had exerted his considerable political influence to obtain the position for his son. McCrae had completed three years of Biology at the University of Toronto in preparation for medicine but had been very ill with asthma and needed a year of rest. McCrae was totally unsuited to the appointment and even appears, at this stage of his career, to have been incompetent. His classes and the student body were in turmoil; he was unable to impose any dicipline and it is said one class even threw him into a pond. His incompetence was manifest and the 3rd year students,argely older than he, boycotted his classes and complained to the President.

The Professor of Agriculture, Thomas Shaw, decided to use the McCrae debacle to his advantage in his struggle with the President and Minister. He encouraged the students in their boycott and urged them to lay a petition of complaint before the Minister. This complaint, in which Hunt played a large part, developed into a petition requesting the government to institute an investigation of the College on several grounds. This naive group actually believed that the Minister would tolerate public criticism of his department; in this they were greatly deceived. A Royal Commission was established and in open testimony Hunt, Shaw and the renegade students were publicly humiliated. It was even brought out that Hunt and the College Matron were having an affair! McCrae was gently treated but everyone else was censured or dismissed and the Minister at last placed the sole governance of the Ontario Agricultural College in the President's hands (subject of course to Ministerial approval).

The most urgent need was for a new Professor of Physics and Mathematics, and here an appointment was made that turned out to be of historic significance.

Joseph B. Reynolds and the beginning of Physics 1893-1906

Portrait of J. B. Reynolds ca. 1895
J.B Reynolds ca. 1895

As the Minister of Agriculture was the MPP for Reynolds' home riding he applied to him for a job and was appointed; it is not apparent that the President was even consulted! He was appointed Lecturer in Physics and Assistant Residence Master.J. B. Reynolds was born in 1867, the fourteenth of sixteen in a poor farming family near Bowmanville Ontario. He was an extraordinary scholar who attracted the astonished attention of even his earliest teachers. By special permission he completed High School in one year, standing third in the province in mathematics and entered the University of Toronto as a part-time student in 1886 graduating in 1893 with a first in Physics and Mathematics.

It is clear that his intellectual superiority was apparent to the President; within two years he was acting for the President in his absence and in the annual reports of the College to the Minister, his appears immediately after that of the President.

By 1895 Reynolds had completely revised the Physics and Mathematics curriculum and for the first time is listed as the Head of the Physics Department. Among the many new topics Electricity was included for the first time; he foresaw that electricity would be of paramount importance in farming. He wrote:

"Besides electricity is now such an important factor in the industrial and mechanical world, that it can no longer be omitted from a course on physics that makes any pretensions to being practical and comprehensive. In fact, intelligent people will not much longer remain in ignorance of the theory of electrical machinery and the transmission of electrical energy."

Almost immediately on his appointment Reynolds took up research in Agricultural Physics. On the importance of fundamental science in Agriculture he said:

"I believe the scientific farmer is going to be the farmer of the future. I thoroughly believe --- that if farming is to be made a success in this country it has to be done on a scientific basis."

With an uncanny instinct for what was important he chose topics which almost all developed into major programs that have persisted in other departments to the present day. With very modest means he started analysing soils for sand, humus, and moisture content, and demonstrated the value of humus in preventing the leaching of soil nutrients. Research in soils continued throughout his Physics career. To this end Reynolds inserted topics on Soil Physics and the movement and storage of water in soils into the 2nd year Physics course and in 1897 introduced a special course on Soils in the 1st year. He also began research into refrigeration, insulation, and the efficacy of cold storage and had refrigeration equipment installed in the College for the first time. At the request of a group of farmers he began a yearly survey of the cost of lightning strikes in rural Ontario; this survey was of great importance later.

Throughout this period Reynolds taught Physics and English and discovered that his interests were turning from science to English. In 1906 he handed over the Dept. of Physics to W.H. Day and turned to English full time.

Reynolds left O.A.C. in 1915 to become the President of the Manitoba Agricultural College, returning as President of O.A.C. in 1920, an office he held with distinction until his retirement in 1928.

William H. Day-Water and Lightning. 1906-1919

William Henry Day was born in 1870 at Fenlon Falls Ontario into a farming family. After teaching school for six years he entered the University of Toronto in 1898 and graduated as Gold Medallist in Physics and Mathematics in 1903. Upon graduation he accepted a position in Physics at the O.A.C. and immediately embarked on a remarkable career of applied research. In collaboration with Reynolds, Day assumed responsibility for the program in Soils and did extensive research in soil moisture and tillage.

What was to be Day's greatest work, however, started as a proposal to the Ministry by Reynolds in 1904. He suggested that the Ministry should sponsor a program to encourage land underdrainage with a fund for loans to farmers and provision for expert surveys and drainage plans. For the latter, the Department of Physics would supply trained surveyors to carry out the levelling measurements and from these prepare detailed ditching plans and estimates of the tile required. The Ministry agreed to the plan and thus initiated the great land drainage program that lasted into the 1960s. As Reynolds left Physics in 1906 the development of the program fell to Day and it became his great life's work. The amount of drainage work accomplished was prodigious; even during the worst days of the war the momentum was maintained. By 1918, 140,272 acres of land had been tiled and drained and the impact on the Ontario clay-tile industry was profound.

The Physics Department Ditching Machine ca. 1920
The Physics Department Ditching Machine ca. 1920

The great project of Day's career started at O.A.C. but reached its culmination after he had left. His interest was aroused in the agricultural possibilities of draining the Holland Marsh, a great swamp north of Toronto. While still a professor at the O.A .C., Day entered into partnership with several businessmen including, J.A. Baird an engineer in Leamington Ont. Baird was the engineer who had carried out the Point Pelee marsh drainage scheme. The object of the syndicate was to obtain options on marsh land and then to convince the municipalities to proceed with the drainage scheme. In 1923 Day moved to Bradford in order to urge on the scheme. In 1925 the local governments signed a contract to drain Holland Marsh according to Day's plan with Baird as engineer. The first crop was taken off Day's 37 acres in 1927 and the project was completed in 1930. Day became a full time vegetable farmer and supervisor of the marsh drainage system.

The other important work of Day's academic career was the completion of the lightning survey project begun by Reynolds in 1899. The survey had continued every year up to 1913 and a great amount of data had been obtained as to the efficacy of lightning rod s. By 1914 Day felt that he had mastered the problem and in 1914 issued an Ontario Department of Agriculture Bulletin which for many years was considered the last word on the proper installation of lightning protection on farm buildings.

In 1909 R.R. Graham joined the department of Physics and remained until his retirement in 1943; Graham concerned himself initially with problems of cold storage but later was renowned for his work on farm sanitation and water supply. The improvement of sanitation and public health in rural Ontario owes a great deal to Graham. In 1917 R.C. Moffatt a Gold Medallist in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Toronto was appointed Demonstrator and remained until his retirement in 1956; he became head in 1946.

By 1915 the department was desperate for sufficient space to carry out its teaching and research program and in that year the Ministry authorized a new building for Physics of about 18,000 square feet which was occupied in September 1916 (present Reynolds Building). It was paid for out of a special grant made by the Federal Government for Ontario Agriculture.

"Billy" Day was a complex and difficult person and was obviously a thorn in the side of those in positions of authority over him. He was blunt, aggressive, and well aware of his abilities; he would not submit meekly to President or Minister. It was only a matter of time before he would have to leave and he resigned in 1919. In 1923 he commenced farming at Bradford and on July 5, 1938 he died suddenly while working in the garden he had created for the people of Ontario.

 William. C. Blackwood. 1919-1946

The resignation of W.H. Day in 1919 was a serious blow to the continued operation of the Department and its programs. There remained only two young and relatively inexperienced faculty: R.R. Graham and R.C. Moffatt who was more a mathematician than a physicist. The crisis in the Farm Drainage program was solved with the appointment of Fred L. Ferguson as director. He served as Director of Drainage until his retirement in 1956 and the termination of the program at the College.

The choice of a head was a more serious problem. The new head would have to take over the administration of a department whose activities were very strongly in the area of applied Physics; in addition, the instructional program had been neglected. The right man was found in a teaching engineer. W.C. Blackwood was born in 1879 in Harriston Ont.; he entered the School of Practical Science at the University of Toronto, graduating in Electrical Engineering in 1909. He accepted a position at Central Technical Institute in Toronto in the Physics Department of which he quickly became the head. He was offered the post of head of the Physics Department at O.A.C. in 1919 and he was well suited to the position. He was a respected educator with a solid background in applied Physics and his school teaching in rural Ontario gave him rare insight into the background of the type of students who were coming to O.A.C.

It is difficult to document the influence of Blackwood on the intellectual life of the institution since he did not, himself, publish research papers or reports. Nevertheless his influence must have been profound as evidenced by two generations of student s who regarded him with a reverence approaching awe as a teacher and mentor. In the period 1919 27 several new research programs were initiated. A cost analysis study on the relative merits of hydroelectric power vs. gaselectric generation was started in 1920, and in 1922 a project to evaluate the strength of materials for farm building construction was undertaken. In 1925 he initiated studies on the use of explosives for land clearing and demonstrations of this technique became a permanent feature of the extension work of the department. In 1922 the Department instituted the Agricultural Science option which was designed to train teachers in Agricultural Science for the Ontario high schools. This option, which later developed into the General Science option, supplied the Ontario high schools with well trained and versatile science teachers well into the 1960's. A course of instruction in radio receivers was added for science specialists in 1925 and was put to good use during the Second World War. In 1941 the Commonwealth Air Force Wireless School #4 was established at O.A.C., and Blackwood was placed in charge of the academic curriculum with Moffatt as his assistant.

In 1926 graduate studies were introduced at O.A.C., but it was to be many years before the first graduate student appeared in Physics.

By 1927 the College was under great pressure from the agricultural community to demonstrate that it was concerned with practical matters and was not just another theoretical institution. In response, the politicians demanded action and in the reorganization the Departments of Physics and Farm Mechanics were merged into the Department of Agricultural Engineering under the headship of Blackwood, a situation that lasted until his retirement in 1946.

Professor Blackwood Demonstrating Electric Fencing ca. 1940
Professor Blackwood Demonstrating
Electric Fencing ca. 1940

A few research projects were started, and services offered during this period which might well be classified as applied Physics. Studies of the germination of seeds under varying light conditions were undertaken in 1928, and in 1931 equipment was obtained to calibrate and adjust ultra-violet lamps for other departments.

During the Second World War, academic activities were curtailed drastically due to the enlistment of faculty in the services, declining student numbers, and the heavy involvement of the remaining faculty in the Commonwealth Air Force Wireless School. The end of the war saw the Department, and indeed the whole institution, in dire need of reorganization and redirection if it was to cope with the large influx of post-war students and make a contribution in a vastly more scientific and technical society. At the beginning of the Second World War, the College was already years out of date in technological proficiency; at the end of the war the situation was even worse. Most other institutions of higher learning in Canada had been intimately involved in the sci entific aspects of the war effort. The resultant influx of money, equipment, and, most importantly, the latest scientific information had given many institutions a head start on the scientific revolution that was to characterize the latter half of the pre sent century. By contrast, the O.A.C. had had its activities curtailed with no clear wartime mandate except to keep the Ontario agricultural system as productive and trouble-free as possible using the tried and true techniques.

Robert C. Moffatt-Mathematics 1946-1956

The situation of Physics in 1946 was a microcosm of the College's problems. The College administration took Blackwood's retirement as an opportunity to reorganize this area. The plan was to split the Agricultural Engineering Department into a large resear ch Department of Engineering and a smaller teaching Department of Physics and Mathematics. The parts considered nonessential to the main purpose were split off under the headship of R.C. Moffatt who had joined the faculty in 1913. The new Physics Departme nt was obviously perceived as a service department, teaching elementary physics and mathematics, and administering the rather small General Science option.

Moffatt's major interest and influence was in the area of mathematics, and even more importantly, statistics. He may be considered the founder of what is now the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Guelph. The calculus was belatedly introduced into the curriculum in 1925 and thereafter a slow but steady progress was made in the teaching of mathematics. This effort was largely the work of Moffatt who had the difficult task of convincing the faculty, as well as the students, that a dvanced mathematics and statistics were essential to the proper interpretation of agricultural research. This pioneering effort by Moffatt has led to the very strong emphasis on statistical methods that presently characterizes research at Guelph. In the same year he began supplying statistical consultation services for graduate students and other researchers. This was to develop into one of the most important functions of the new Physics Department when it was revived in 1946, and it led to the establishm ent of computing on the campus in 1959.

If any one subject were to characterize the technique of experimental Physics in the mid part of the twentieth century it would be "electronics"; the practice and theory of which was almost totally lacking at O.A.C. in the immediate post-war years. The next major appointment rectified that situation and set the stage for the eventual modernization of the Department.

Earl B. MacNaughton-The Modern Era Begins 1956-1969

E.B. MacNaughton, true to the tradition of all O.A.C. Physics heads, had rural roots. In 1937 he entered the Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry program at the University of Toronto and graduated with honours in 1941. After graduation he commenced advanced studies at Toronto in spectroscopy with H.L. Welsh, the first of a long line of Welsh's students who were to leave an indelible mark on Canadian Physics and on the subject of molecular spectroscopy. In 1948, on completing his doctoral studies he accepted a position at O.A.C. The effect of MacNaughton on the Department's curriculum and activities was immediate; his uptodate knowledge of electronics and spectroscopy was quickly applied. Although the Department had limited resources for research, a great change was evident in the technical assistance to other departments which took on a "high-tech" aspect.

Infrared Gas Analyser, 1952
Infrared Gas Analyser 1952

In 1950 the first graduate student in Physics, R.S. Gage was enrolled; he received the first M.S.A. in Physics in 1952. His research was supervised by MacNaughton and involved the design and construction of a very sensitive infrared residual gas analyzer. This state of the art instrument was later used in the research of the second graduate student: R.H. Stinson. Both Gage and Stinson, after doctoral studies elsewhere, became faculty members. In 1956, Moffatt retired and MacNaughton was appointed head. For the nine remaining years before the formation of the University of Guelph, he made appointments, as they were made available by the Ministry, to strengthen the Department in the experimental aspects of Biophysics and mainline Physics. The former, as a relatively new discipline in mid-century, required fostering home-grown talent; thus the appointment of Gage, Stinson, and W.G. Graham. For mainline Physics, the University of Toronto continued to be the major source of new faculty. In 1957, J.R. Stevens, a student of High Polymer Physics with D.G. Ivey, was appointed; in 1963, J.L. Hunt a Molecular Physicist from Welsh's research group was the last to be appointed in O.A.C. Physics. By 1964 the Department had modest but progressing research projects in bi ophysics, high polymer physics and molecular spectroscopy. On the eve of the formation of the University of Guelph in 1964, and the severing of the 72 year connection with the O. A. C., the Department of Physics had come a long way back from the obscurity of the pre-war era. It was not yet a post-war Physics Department but MacNaughton had provided the start.

The University of Guelph 1964

In 1964 the Physics section of the Department of Physics and Mathematics entered the new University of Guelph with six teaching faculty members and the resources for undergraduate education in Physics to approximately the 5th semester level. There were three graduate students, and virtually none of the facilities that would be considered necessary for a modern research department in a full University setting. The physical space available was 22,000 square feet in the old Physics Building, which was shared with an equal sized faculty in Mathematics and Statistics.

Given its antecedants it is not surprising that the administration of the new university anticipated its future development in the area of the life sciences. With the support of his small faculty MacNaughton prevailed against this prejudice and insisted that, along with Chemistry, a strong program in Physics would be essential in a modern university, even one with pretensions in the life sciences. The decision was made to expand rapidly the Physics department into a research department with general interests in physical research and a special interest in biophysics. The two top-priority items were then: finding and hiring young faculty with research potential, and providing space and facilities for them.

MacNaughton's superior administrative skills required that he assume the post of associate Dean (Science) to oversee the expansion of the science departments in the new university since the newly appointed Dean had his hands full establishing completely n ew departments in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. He retained the task of providing the space but set about finding a new head for the department. Innes K. MacKenzie (1967, 1987) was appointed as a senior professor and at the last minute agreed to be head for whatever time it took to find a core of faculty and to establish a course curriculum leading to honours level degrees in Physics and Biophysics.

MacKenzie, renowned for his work in positron physics, had had a successful career at Dalhousie University and welcomed the challenge to build something new. He had a finely developed talent for finding young, promising researchers and convincing them to come to a university they had never heard of. One of the earliest appointments was Iain L. Campbell (1968) a student of atomic physics at Glasgow. He began research in cramped conditions in the old Physics Building that was to lead to an international repu tation in atomic physics and PIXE. Other appointments were M. Fujimoto (1968, 1991) in ESR of organic crystals and R.W. Ollerhead (1968), a student of Bromley, in nuclear physics.

To add to the bio-physics effort, Gage, Stinson and W.G. Graham (1960, 1995) were joined by F.R. Hallett (1969), a student of Pollard at Penn State. In 1970 he was an early investigator in the new area of autocorrellation spectroscopy, investigating biological subjects such as self-motile bacteria, sperm motility, and other polydisperse suspensions. He later extended his research to neutron scattering on these and other systems such as micells and vessicles.

It had been decided that theoretical physics should be a strong part of the department's activities and C.G. Gray (1969) and G. Karl (1969), protégés of Van Kranendonk at Toronto, were recruited to begin the effort in this area. The Van Kran endonk group remained a continuing source for theorists and J.D. Poll (1970, 1991) joined the group. In this way a strong effort was mounted in theoretical molecular physics although Karl had already turned his attention to sub-atomic physics with great success. J. Law (1969) began theoretical studies in atomic and low-energy nuclear physics.

In 1969 the department moved into the new 200,000 sq. ft. Physical Science Building (now the MacNaughton Bldg.) that MacNaughton had guided through planning and construction. MacKenzie now felt that he had done what he could to start the department off and advised that a new Chair should be found with an international reputation sufficient to attract favourable attention to a department of high, but so far unrecognized, quality. He strongly advocated the appointment of Peter A. Egelstaff (1970, 1990) who became Chair.

Neutron scattering spectrometer constructed at Chalk River by Egelstaff and co-workers
Neutron scattering spectrometer
constructed at Chalk River by
Egelstaff and co-workers

Egelstaff came to Guelph with a world-class reputation as one of the pioneers in the application of neutron scattering to the structure of liquids and dense gases. He was a welcome visitor at most of the world's high-flux neutron facilities and immediately embarked on an ambitious research program using the facilities at Chalk River, McMaster University and the University of Toronto. With the undergraduate program well established Egelstaff concentrated his attention on graduate studies and research. He recognized that Guelph needed a Ph.D. graduate program to prosper just as the Ontario Government decided that it would like to "rationalize" them, and imposed a freeze on new programs. With great foresight he negotiated co-operation with the established pr ograms at the University of Waterloo which served the department well until the Government had procedures in place to evaluate and approve new programs. The first accredited PhD program in physics in Ontario was the Guelph one in 1974. In the same year the Biophysics Interdepartmental Group (BIG) was formed with the participation of faculty from Physics, Biology, Agriculture, and the Veterinary Sciences. This group obtained accreditation for PhD studies in the general area of biophysics. The spirit of co-operation and trust established between Guelph and Waterloo in this period has lasted to the present and has led to further co-operative ventures.

Undergraduate teaching was not neglected; R.G. Winkel (1962) had assumed responsibility for instruction in electronics when MacNaughton became Dean and later he joined him as a very popular and successful academic advisor. E.L. McFarland (1974) was appointed as a specialist in education and has had a renowned career in pedagogy. In 1987 he was instrumental in establishing the MPC undergraduate program for gifted undergraduates in the physical sciences and was a founder of the Ontario Association of Physic s Teachers, the first foreign affiliation of the A.A.P.T.

By 1975, at the end of Egelstaff's term, the department had an established research program on a broad front and a growing graduate enrolment. In biophysics B.M. Millman (1974, 1995) had established his X-ray studies of muscle and R.H. Stinson (1954, 1993 ) had turned to X-ray studies of collagen and other systems. G.H. Renninger (1972), starting as a theorist interested in the visual system, established an electrophysiology laboratory to carry out measurements on the visual system of invertebrates-princip ally the horseshoe crab. In nuclear physics J.J. Simpson (1969) commenced studies on ultra-low level detection of radioactivity using the shielding afforded by the Windsor salt mine, and performed studies of the tritium beta decay. When the SNO project was started he became one of the founding members and his laboratory became an important centre for the control of the low level of radioactivity in the materials of construction.

In solid state physics C.W. Fischer (1965) began studies on the properties of semi-conductor materials, particularly GaAs. K.R. Jeffery (1969), a student of Armstrong at Toronto, began studies using NMR and quickly turned to biophysical systems, in particular the study of lipid bi-layers. W.C. Winegard (1967, 1975), the President of the University, continued his research in metal physics in the Physics Department.

Jack R. MacDonald (1975, 1995) came from the Bell Telephone Laboratories to occupy the Chair and commenced work in the use of ion beams in solid state physics. A 3 MeV Van De Graaff accelerator was acquired for this work and Campbell's proton micro-probe. In this period B.G. Nickel (1974) and D. Sullivan (1974) joined the theory group with general interests in critical phenomena.

In 1981 MacDonald became Dean (and eventually Vice President) and Ollerhead was appointed chair in 1982, a post he held for the following decade. In this period J. Davis (1980) was appointed in the biophysics area and R.L. Brooks (1980) in atomic and molecular physics and along with Hunt began experiments using the McMaster tandam accelerator on the spectroscopy of proton irradiated solid hydrogens and simple cryogenic gases. J. Dutcher (1990) has established research in the mechanical and magnetic proper ties of thin films and surfaces using optical techniques.

In 1981 the spirit of co-operation with Waterloo became manifest with the formation of the Guelph-Waterloo Program for Graduate Work in Physics (GWP)2 and the full integration of the academic aspects of graduate studies. In 1992 the Guelph-Waterloo Video Link was opened. This project was seen through design and implementation by an inter-university group led by J.L. Hunt. In 1993 the link was extended to McMaster University.

At the end of his term in 1993 Ollerhead relinquished the chair to K.R. Jeffery who had the pleasure of appointing Elizabeth Nicol (1993), a solid state theorist with an interest in high-temperature superconductors as the department's first female faculty member.

Since the formation of the University, the department's faculty has acquired more than its share of honours: Karl - F.R.S.C. and C.A.P. Medal; Egelstaff - F.R.S.C. and C.A.P. Medal; Nickel - Herzberg Medal and F.R.S.C.; Simpson - Rutherford Memorial Medal and F.R.S.C.; Gray - F.R.S.C.; McFarland - 3M Teaching Fellow.


  1. For a history of the first 100 years of the Ontario Agricultural College see: The College on the Hill by Alexander M. Ross, 1974, Copp Clark Publishing, Toronto.
  2. The history of Physics at the Ontario Agricultural College up to 1964 is in Wisdom From the Past by James L. Hunt, 1989, College of Physical and Engineering Science, University of Guelph
  3. The first twenty five years of the University of Guelph are recounted in Hatching the Cowbird's Egg by David R. Murray, and The Achievement and Challenge by Judith A. Colbert, 1989, University of Guelph.