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Happy Birthday's Emeriti! Print E-mail

Live Long And Prosper! Have you ever wondered how being a part of the Dept. of Chemistry & Chemical Biology can enrich your life? Well, just read on about 4 of our illustrious Professors Emeritus. Dr Arthur Bourns will be 95 this year! Drs Spenser, Gillespie and Tomlinson will all be 90 years old this year! Happy Birthday to all and thank you all for your contributions to this department, McMaster University, the field of Chemistry and your numerous contributions to society in general!*


Arthur N. Bourns

Arthur was born in December , 1919 in Petitcodiac, New Brunswick and was educated at Acadia University and McGill University, graduating in 1944 with a doctorate in Chemistry.

Arthur began his career as a research chemist in 1944 at the Dominion Rubber Company. He then taught at Acadia Univeristy and the University of Saskatchewan before joining the Department of Chemistry here at McMaster in 1947.

An inspiring teacher and a researcher internationally known for his contributions to physical organic chemistry, he also showed exceptional administrative skills. Arthur became a full Professor at McMaster in 1953 and served as both a Chairman and a Dean before becoming Vice-President of Science and Engineering in 1967. In 1972 he was appointed President of the university, a post he held until 1980.

He had a distinguished academic career, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1964 and serving as a member of the National Research Council, 1969-1975. He has acted as a scientific and educational adviser to governments in Canada and abroad (eg, from 1985 to 1992 as chairman of the International Advisory Panel - Canada, US, Britain - advising Chinese government and university officials on the development of China's universities). Arthur has received five honorary degrees and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1985 and became honorary professor at China's Jiangxi University in 1989.

In 1986 the Senior Science Building on campus was renamed the Arthur N. Bourns Building in his honour and in 2012 he became a McMaster Alumni Honorary Member.

Arthur will turn 95 on Dec. 8th, happy birthday and thank you for your numerous contributions to Chemistry, our department and this university.


Ronald J. Gillespie

Ronald James Gillespie, CM FRSC (born August 21, 1924 in London), specialized in the field of Molecular Geometry in Chemistry.

He was educated at the University of London obtaining a B.Sc in 1945, a Ph.D in 1949 and a D.Sc in 1957. He was Assistant Lecturer and then Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at University College London in England from 1950 to 1958. He moved to McMaster University in 1958 and retired in 1989 but continued his research full time until recently. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1965 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1977.

In 2007 he was awarded the Order of Canada.

Ron has done extensive work on expanding the idea of the Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) model of Molecular Geometry, which he developed with Ronald Nyholm, and setting the rules for assigning numbers. He has written several books on this VSEPR topic in chemistry.

The widely known VSEPR model was first developed as an aid to teaching. It grew from Ron’s longstanding interest in chemical education. His many contributions to teaching have been recognized by the Manufacturing Chemists' College Chemistry Teaching Award, the Union Carbide Award of the Chemical Institute of Canada and the McMaster Student's Union for Excellence in Teaching. In addition, he has published two innovative first year chemistry texts: Chemistry, with Professors Humphreys, Baird and Robinson, and Atoms, Molecules and Reactions: An Introduction to Chemistry, with Professors Humphreys, Eaton and Robinson. These texts will be very familiar to many alumni who used them in their freshman introduction to chemistry.

With colleagues he developed LCP theory, (ligand close packing theory), which for some molecules allows geometry to be predicted on the basis of ligand-ligand repulsions. Ron has also done extensive work on interpreting the covalent radius of fluorine. The covalent radius of most atoms is found by taking half the length of a single bond between two similar atoms in a neutral molecule. Calculating the covalent radius for fluorine is more difficult because of its high electronegativity compared to its small atomic radius size. Ronald work on the bond length of fluorine focuses on theoretically determining the covalent radius of fluorine by examining its covalent radius when it is attached to several different atoms.

Ron will turn 90 on August 21st, happy birthday and thank you for your outstanding contributions to our Chemistry department, McMaster and the field of Chemistry as a whole.



Ian D. Spenser

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1924, Ian received his undergraduate training from the University of Birmingham. He completed his postdoctoral work at the University of London, King's College in 1952 and went on to complete his D.Sc in organic and biochemistry at the University of London in 1969. Ian began his academic career at McMaster as an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in the Chemistry Department in 1957. He has served the university in numerous capacities including terms on the McMaster Board of Governors and the Senate. Ian has been one of the giants of Canadian chemistry and is a world leader in the study of natural products biosynthesis. Biosynthesis is the study of how nature uses a simple set of chemical substances to construct the myriad of molecules and cellular components found in plants, bacteria and animals. During his postdoctoral studies with Dr. Leo Marion at the NRC Labs, Ian began two decades of work to unravel the complex pathways that constituted the biosynthesis of a large number of alkaloids, a class of compounds with important biological properties and medicinal applications.

But Ian is perhaps best known for his alkaloid work in which he demonstrated a creative and rigorous approach to science which provided definitive answers to complex and controversial problems. In the later years of his career, Ian’s attention shifted to studies of the biosynthesis of two important vitamins, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). These studies have been published in top scientific journals and have brought order to a previously confusing body of science. This body of work constitutes what is arguably Ian's most important accomplishment, much of it undertaken during his appointment as Professor Emeritus in 1989.

Ian has received numerous honors throughout his long and distinguished career. These honors include: the FRIC (Fellowship, Royal Institute of Chemistry, 1957), the FCIC (Fellowship, Chemical Institute of Canada, 1957), the FRSC (Fellowship, Royal Society of Canada, 1980), and the FRSC (UK) (Fellowship, Royal Society of Chemistry, 1980). In 1980, he received the Senior Scientist Award from NATO. He has also been recognized with the Canada-Japan Exchange Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.

Ian is 90 years on June 17th – happy birthday! And thank you for furthering our knowledge and contributing so much to the field of chemistry, this university and our department.



Richard (Dick) Tomlinson

Richard H. Tomlinson, OC (born 1924) a chemist and philanthropist. He is best known as a founding director of Gennum Corp., a Canadian manufacturer of semiconductors and semiconductor-based products, and for making one of the largest single donations to a Canadian university.

He studied at Bishop's University and received a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1948 from McGill University studying under Otto Maass – who he also served under in the Canadian military’s Chemical warfare Unit during WWII. After post-doctoral fellowships at the National Research Council and Cambridge, Dick joined McMaster University's chemistry department in 1950.

He became chair of the department and taught at the university for close to four decades. He earned a teaching award from the Chemical Institute of Canada and published almost 60 peer-reviewed papers dealing with subjects as diverse as molecular diffusion and flow, polymer chemistry, the geological age of minerals and chemistry in molecular beams.

For years Dick hosted the Departmental BBQ after the annual golf tournament in his backyard out around the swimming pool. It was a beautiful venue and remembered fondly.

He was made an emeritus professor in 1988 and retired the year after. Then he took on a bigger project.

He became a founding director of Gennum Corporation which went on to establish itself as the world's largest maker of microchips for hearing aids and one of the biggest suppliers of chips for digital signal-processing TV studio equipment.

When McMaster's nuclear reactor lost its government funding and was threatened with closure, Dick approached the university with a proposal. Instead of spending millions to close the facility, he suggested "we use it to make millions instead." And he did. Here's a quote from Chris Heysel, Director Nuclear Operations, "His development of the production of I-125 (radio-isotope used in Prostate Cancer treatment) here at MNR was critical to the Reactor survival and current success. On the basis of the Dick’s work (and others) we were able to put together and execute a business plan to support the continued operation of the research reactor at zero cost to the University. The reactor is an large international supplier of this isotope (ship product to Europe, US, China, South America… every week)."

An avid golfer and runner (he held the national record for the 30-kilometre run for those over 60), when he wasn’t busy with these pursuits he was busy using the reactor for his own research approaches to develop radioactive iodines and nuclicides used widely in the treatment of cancers and various diagnostic medical procedures. Dick is also a philanthropist and has made several impressive donations to McMaster and other universities. The Richard H. Tomlinson Gallery in the McMaster Museum of Art was made possible through his donations.

In 2003 he was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

A few years ago, Dick finally retired for real and lives comfortably in his home in Hamilton. Earlier this year, he turned 90. Happy belated 90th Dick and thank you for your incredible contributions to our department, this university and society in general.

To all of you – may you have many many more birthdays and know that we remember you and appreciate your contributions to this department.

* All biographies were compiled from various sources including Wikipedia, Canadian Encyclopedia, McGill Reporter|Daniel McCabe, McMaster Chemical Abstracts, a citation conferring an honorary degree and the McMaster Library Archives

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