UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 16 | October 18, 2001

Charles A. McDowell: first-rate all the way

Charles McDowell, former head of the Chemistry Dept. died last month. One of UBC's most prestigious research prizes, the Charles A. McDowell Award for Excellence in Research, is named in his honour.

by Prof. Michael C.L. Gerry

With the passing of C.A. McDowell, UBC lost one of the giants of its history. Charles McDowell was head of the Chemistry Dept. from 1955 until 1981.

When he arrived the department was small, with about a dozen faculty, and was housed in one building, the oldest on the campus. Research was only a minor part of the enterprise.

His vision, and his greatest achievement, were to create a vital, modern department, first class in both teaching and research. He realized in particular that the greatness of a university is set by its research achievements.

He was the right man at the right time. Through his initiative, four new wings were built. Two were for undergraduate teaching, and two were for research.

He hired people -- lots of them -- and was especially good at it. In terms of faculty numbers, UBC had at one time one of the largest chemistry departments in North America.

A dozen of the faculty he hired have become fellows of the Royal Society of Canada.

He realized, too, that to meet his vision the department had to have first-rate support facilities, with first-rate staff.

He created some of the best support facilities of any Chemistry department anywhere. They remain to this day, and are a major factor in recruiting outstanding new faculty.

His own research was in physical chemistry, including many branches of it: gas phase chemical kinetics, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, electron spin resonance and photoelectron spectroscopy.

He received many honours, the highest of which was the Order of Canada.

During his last two years as head he became very ill with Guillain-Barré syndrome which left him in a wheelchair.

Through both courage and determination he returned to UBC as University Professor, and resumed his research career, which he continued until shortly before his death. For this, and for his achievements, he will long be remembered.

Chemistry Prof. Michael Gerry was a friend and long-time colleague of Charles McDowell.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.