N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: November 17, 1964
Special Convocation: Following the official opening of the Linear Accelerator Laboratory
Discipline / contribution: nuclear physics
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Dr. George Craig Laurence, President of Canada’s Atomic Control Board, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a senior member or a Fellow of several professional societies having to do with nuclear engineering and radiology.Degree received: Doctor of Science
Charlottetown among its distinctions can also claim him as a native son. Like most young Maritimers in the 1920’s and 30’s who had an aptitude for physics and mathematics, he went to Dalhousie University for training to the Bachelor’s and Master’s level. The scholarship at that time most desired by young scientists was the 1851 Exhibition Scholarship. Only three were awarded each year in Canada, and a candidate had not only to be worthy but outstandingly worthy to be considered. George Laurence was included with the successful ones for 1927.
He used it to spend the next three years at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge -- three years during a period when the laboratory could boast a galaxy of atomic and nuclear scientists that included Lord Rutherford, J.J. Thomson, F.W. Aston, C.T.R. Wilson, Chadwick, and Cockcroft (then or later Nobel Prize winners). It was a period when the need for more knowledge concerning the nucleus of the atom was recognized and experiments to get this knowledge were in progress or being planned.
The knowledge and experience that George Laurence acquired at the Cavendish Laboratory was just what Canada needed. Large deposits of radioactive ores had been discovered in 1930 at Great Bear Lake, and research was needed to exploit this natural resource. He returned to Canada and joined the staff of our National Research Council. Since then he has served Canada faithfully, modestly and with an intensity and singleness of purpose that has helped to make Canada a leader in the utilization of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Only George Laurence and a few of his close associates could tell the complete story of the first uranium pile in Canada. He built it in 1940 when “confidential” and “secret” were the rule-of-the-day. While this pile never became critical, it lead to the acceptance of Canada as a respected and important partner with Great Britain and the United States in investigations on the utilization of nuclear energy. The scientific and administrative talents of Dr. Laurence have been directed since that time along two complementary channels -- one to develop a nuclear reactor that can produce power at a cost competitive with other sources of energy and the other to reduce the hazards of nuclear devices to a minimum. At both, he has been eminently successful.
One might suspect that a person with his interests in nuclear engineering would have divorced himself from the prosaic activities of the university physicist. This was not the case. He has been an active member of our Canadian Association of Physicists, serving one term as president. He has recognized the need for training and research in nuclear science at our Canadian Universities, and has given strong support toward the provision of funds for large nuclear research projects -- including our own Linear Accelerator Laboratory.
On behalf of Council and Senate I ask that you confer on him the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: B.W. Currie, Dean of Graduate Studies
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