Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

A story of love and committment behind some of our awards

At the 2015 Spring Convocation, few had heard of the named awards won by some of our undergraduate students:

Even fewer know the history of the people behind these named awards.  Thankfully, our late Don Moorcroft has documented the history of the Physics & Astronomy department and contained valuable information.

Prior to 2015 award ceremony, I had the opportunity to get in touch with Diane Coffin, daughter of Donald Hay.  I asked about Don Hay and history, and here’s her reply:

"Donald Ross Hay received his Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science from U.W.O. in 1946 & 1947. He then went on to receive his Phd from McGill University in 1952.
In 1952, he was hired by the Department of Defence Research Board in Ottawa, Ontario as a scientist.
In 1958, he was offered a position at U.W.O. as a professor of Physics, and established a research program in lower atmospheric physics, particularly micrometeorology, which he continued until his death in April, 1985.
Throughout his career, dad published 96 articles, and one is currently archived in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
From 1963 until 1971, he was commissioned by the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) to attend annual meetings throughout Europe and Asia, and give lectures about his research.Dad and mom were married in 1952, and his wife, Jean, still lives in London. She'll be 89 years old this year.
My parents have two children - John and Diane - and three grandchildren - Ryan, Matthew, and Charlie.
This would be the 30th year anniversary of Don Hay’s passing, and the donation is given each year by Don’s wife Jean Hay."

That, to me, showed how deep Jean loved her husband, and the unwavering commitment to honour him.  I wanted all, not just the award winners,  to know this.

Maude Holt-Kingston was an endowed award in Astronphysics established by Prof Harold Kingston.  According to Moorcroft,

"Harold Reynolds Kingston [1921-47] (Queens, MA, 1908; Chicago, PhD, 1914) arrived from the University of Manitoba and took over as Head of the Department of Mathematics. He took a great, although largely amateur, interest in astronomy, and following his arrival at Western the name of the department was changed to the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy, a name which remained until 1958-59"

You read that correctly. Prof Kingston was a Mathematician, but when he got interested in Astronomy, he renamed the department to Mathematics and Astronomy!

The award was endowed by Prof Kingston in memory of his wife Ethel Maude Holt. This time, it is love from the husband for his wife.

(For some reasons, on the official handbook, Maude Holt-Kingston’s name was left out of this Gold Medal award, so I will need to followup with this.)

Last but not least, we have the Raymond Compton Dearle Gold Medal award for Physics. According to Moorcroft, Prof Raymond Compton Dearle [1919-58] (Toronto, MA, 1917, PhD, 1919), became the second Head of the department of Physics in 1919 and held the position for 30 years. In spite of the evident difficulties at Western, which that year had only 44 freshmen in the entire faculty of Arts, Dr. Dearle saw the opportunities for the Physics department.

It was Prof Dearle that helped plan the new Sciences Building (now, the Physics and Astronomy Building). Construction began in 1922, and into which all the science departments moved starting in 1924. It was renovated recently into this brand new Physics & Astronomy building that you now enjoy.

This award has been presented in the past number of years by Rev. Paul Ross, grandson of Prof Dearle. When I spoke to Rev Ross, I sensed the immense respect for Prof Dearle, and the love for his grandfather.

If you endured this lengthy blog, thank you. I hope you will find the human stories behind the men and women of these awards inspirational. I did. We scientists have long been trained to be “robotically” objective, and the human side may not shine through in our daily work.

Eugene Wong, June, 2015