McMaster University
Celebrating Arthur Bourns Print E-mail


Arthur N. Bourns

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Arthur Bourns, friend and collegue.

Dr Bourns 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 (see video).

Arthur was in his 96th year.  He will be remembered for his numerous contributions to Chemistry, our department and the University.


This information was compiled from various sources including Wikipedia, Canadian Encyclopedia, McMaster Chemical Abstracts, a citation conferring an honorary degree and the McMaster Library Archives

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