The Early Years: Physics

1864: Henry Marshall Tory was born. He was the first president of the University of Alberta (1908-1928), the first president of the National Research Council(1928-1935) and the first president of Carleton College (1942-1947). In 1906, he helped establish the McGill University College of British Columbia, absorbed into the University of British Columbia in 1915. His brother was James Cranswick Tory, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. He was a faculty member at McGill. He and Ernest Rutherford were close friends.

1908: Ernest Rutherford received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in articulating the uranium, radium and thorium decay series and the associated discovery of the exponential law of the nature of alpha, beta and gamma radiation and of the existence of isotopes. Kammerlingh Onnes achieved the first successful liquefaction of Helium.

1915: At U.B.C. four Physics courses offered.

  • Introduction to the Principles of Physics; Text: Ontario High School Physics and Laboratory Manual.
  • Heat, Sound and Light; Text: Dechanel’s, "Heat, Sound and Light".
  • Electricity and Magnetism; Text: Brooks and Poyser, "Electricity and Magnetism".
  • Mechanics; Text, Loney’s "Mechanics and Hydrostatics for Beginners"

Staff and Faculty. H.T. Barnes, J.Gordon Davidson, B.L.Silver. Gordon Danielson became a Full Professor at Ames, Iowa.

1916: T.C. Hebb B.Sc. M.A.(Dal.) PhD (Chicago) hired as Assistant Professor.

1919: Fifth course introduced: Advanced Electricity and Magnetism: differential and integral calculus a prerequisite.

1920: T.C. Hebb, formally made Head of Department. He held this position until 1939. A.E. Hennings PhD (Chicago) hired as Associate Prof.
- The number of courses expanded from 5 to 10, including: "Recent Advances in Physics", with Rutherford’s and Millikan’s Texts, and an Experimental Physics lab ( 6 hours per week).

1923: Shrum and MacLellan (Toronto) are the first to successfully repeat Kammerlingh Onnes liquefaction of Helium.

1926: G.M. Shrum, PhD (Toronto) hired as Assistant Prof.
- Schrödinger publishes his wave equation and the spectral analysis of hydrogen in a series of four papers.
- Walter Gage is awarded his M.A. (major: Mathematics, minor: Physics).

1927: Leslie E. Howlett is awarded a B.A. with first class honours in physics - the first B.A. where Physics is the major discipline.

1929: Undergraduate courses increased to 19. Graduate courses introduced: (8 in all). A course for High School Teachers was also introduced.

1931: Quantum Mechanics introduced as a graduate course.
- First M.A. awarded where Physics was the major. Oscar E. Anderson and Kenneth Moore. Both their theses were entitled: "The Arc Spectrum of Nitrogen."

1932: Chadwick discovers the neutron and the true nature of the nucleus was discovered.

1934: Patrick McTaggart -Cowan was a teaching assistant for the year.
- At the May Convocation G.M. Volkoff received his B.A. in Physics and Math and was awarded the Governor-General’s gold medal.

1935: Robert Christy received his B.A. in Math and Physics and was awarded the Governor-General’s Gold medal.
- Kenneth Mackenzie, BA'35, MA'37 at U.B.C. Ph.D. under Lawrence at UC Berkeley. Co-discoverer of element 85, astatine (1940). Co-builder of first synchrocyclotron, demonstrating phase stability in circular accelerators for the first time (1946). Assoc. Prof, UBC (1946-7). Prof., UCLA (1947-2002). Collaborated with Reg Richardson building first sector-focusing cyclotrons and proposing 750-MeV cyclotron meson factory (of which TRIUMF is a scaled-down version). Founded UCLA Plasma Physics Group.

1936: G.M. Volkoff awarded his M.A. Thesis: "Determination of Mean Lives of Excited Atoms". He then studied with J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California at Berkeley where he published his paper "On Massive Neutron Cores" and earned his Ph.D. in 1940.
- Alex Fraser joins his father as members of the Departmental workshop. He remembers watching Shrum through a peep hole next to Chemistry 200, so that he could bring in the demonstrations at the correct time. Under his foremanship the department’s shop became a major reason for many of the experimental successes. The Herb Gush rocket launches were a good example.

1937: Robert Christy awarded his M.A. "Electron Attachment and Negative Ion Formation in Oxygen." He went to Berkeley to work with Oppenheimer for his PhD., and made significant contributions to the Manhattan project. He joined the University of Chicago Physics department briefly after leaving Los Alamos before being recruited to join the Caltech faculty in 1946. He stayed at Caltech for his academic career, serving as Department Chair, Provost and Acting President.
- Shuichi Kusaka. B.A. awarded the Governor-General’s gold medal. Physics and Math. Shuichi was the son of a Japanese family. He moved to Canada when he was five. Attended Gladstone High School. His parents were medical officers for the B.C. packers in Steveston. He got his PhD. under Oppenheimer. He became a U.S. citizen, and was at Princeton, when he was drowned in 1947 swimming off the East coast. He edited a book about Einstein and is co-author of a paper with Pauli. By this time Oppenheimer must have wondered what was in the water in Vancouver.

1938: Arthur Crooker joins the department. He was a member of the Canadian Olympic team. Sprinter.

1939: Shrum becomes head of the Department. Hebb retires.
- Ken Mann is hired as assistant professor. Ken Mann became one of the best teachers the department has ever had. Shortly after WWII, the following graffitto was found in the men’s washroom: "Ken Mann is a damn good prof". What better accolade could you want as a teacher!

1940: G.M. Volkoff hired as Assistant Prof. A graduate level course in Nuclear Physics is added.

1943: Thomas Collins receives his B.A. in Math and Physics. He was the first person to be awarded a Ph.D. in any subject at UBC (1950), having studied under Volkoff. He became an accelerator physicist at MIT, where he was one of the two main architects of the 6-GeV Cambridge Electron Accelerator (the highest-energy electron accelerator of its time). In 1968 he joined Fermilab, where he was later appointed Associate Director. He was awarded the Wilson Prize of the APS in 1994 for the invention of "Collins insertions", which allow long straight sections to be included in the periodic magnet lattices of circular high-energy accelerators, providing space for large detectors and other equipment.

1944: Anne Underhill gets her M.A. "The Stark Effect of Helium in Some B-type Stars".

1945: Volkoff awarded an honorary doctorate by UBC for his work on the theory of Canada's CANDU reactors during World War II.

1946: Course number system changed to present system: 100, 200, 300, 400 level for undergrads and 500 level for graduate courses. Phys 511: Low Temperature Physics introduced.
- Engineering Physics starts in the Faculty of Applied Science, but is run by Physics. Three returning war veterans initiated this: Willard Matheson, Duncan Pitman and David Rose. They graduated in 1947 and all three went on to great careers.
- Three faculty members are appointed to the Order of the British Empire for their wartime activities: Gordon Shrum and Kenneth Mann as Officers, George Volkoff as a Member.

1947: Ten faculty and 11 instructor lecturers is the department staffing. The new Hennings Building shows on the campus map.
- The hiring of physics luminaries such as Van der Ziel, Dekker, Bluh, etc. by Gordon Shrum at the end of the war was the major factor leading to the department's development into a multidisciplinary powerhouse with the largest physics graduate school in Canada. The names of the staff recruited in the years from 1945 to 1955 should be recorded, along with their fields of interest: Low Temperature (Jim Brown, Jim and Betty Daniels), Solid State (Ron Burgess), Oceanography (Bob Stewart), Nuclear (Karl Erdman, Derek Livesey, George Griffiths, Bruce White, John Prescott), Theory (Bob Barrie, Peter Rastall, Roger Howard, Luis de Sobrino), Geophysics (John Jacobs, Don Russell).
- Bertram Brockhouse receives his B.A. in Physics at UBC. He is awarded the Nobel prize for Physics in 1994 for his work in neutron spectroscopy at Chalk River. He collaborated closely with Myer Bloom when they were both there. Some of the first neutron scattering experiments were with highly absorbing materials, in the process verifying the Breit-Wigner formula. This was the first work on slow neutron spectroscopy.

1948: J.B. Warren hired as Associate Prof. John Warren is considered to be the father of nuclear physics for western Canada. The 3-MeV Van de Graaff built under his supervision was the first accelerator in western Canada, and was run successfully from 1949 until the early 1970s (when TRIUMF started up).
- The first of the Department photographs is taken on the front steps of the Hennings building.
- Wladyslaw Opechowski joins the department.


-- RonParachoniak - 2018-03-13