University of Manitoba - University Governance - G. Michael Bancroft, D.Sc., May 27, 2008
G. Michael Bancroft, D.Sc., May 27, 2008

G. Michael Bancroft
O.C.; B.Sc.(Hons.), M.Sc.(Man); M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc.(Cambridge); D.Sc.(W.Ont.); F.R.S.C.

Today we are honoured to welcome back to our academic community a distinguished alumnus, Dr. Michael Bancroft, who has had a long and distinguished career in Canadian academia as a leader in scientific research and administration.

Mike Bancroft was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with an Honours B.Sc. in chemistry in 1963, and a M.Sc. in chemistry in 1964 under the supervision of Prof. H.D. Gesser. Upon obtaining a Shell Post-Graduate Scholarship, he went to the University of Cambridge in 1964 for his Ph.D. studies. In the first six months of his Ph.D. program he constructed one of the first automated Mössbauer spectrometers, and used this early spectrometer to study structure and bonding in inorganic compounds and silicate minerals. After his Ph.D. in early 1967, he held a post-doctoral appointment with J.B. Westmore at the University of Manitoba, before returning to the University of Cambridge as a Research Fellow at Christ’s College and as Demonstrator in the Chemistry Department. During this time at Cambridge, he obtained contracts to publish a book and a large review article on Mössbauer Spectroscopy, both of which appeared in 1972/73. He later received an M.A. (1970) and Sc.D. (1979) from the University of Cambridge.

After three years teaching at University of Cambridge, Mike returned to Canada in 1970 and joined the University of Western Ontario, Department of Chemistry, as an Assistant Professor, where he rose through the ranks, becoming a Professor in 1974 and Department Chair between 1986-91 and 1992-95. Over a period of 34 years, he also held a number of additional positions at Western including as Director of the Centre for Chemical Physics from 1977-1981, during which time he established Surface Science Western in 1979, and the Canadian Synchrotron Radiation Facility (CSRF) in Madison, Wisconsin in 1980. He directed the latter facility as President from 1991 until 1999.

His multi-decade long dream and effort to establish a national synchrotron facility became a reality when the Canadian Light Source (CLS) was built at the University of Saskatchewan, and he became the first Director from 1999- 2001. He continued as acting Director of Research at the CLS from 2001- 2005. From 1997-1999 Mike was first Vice-President and then President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry. For Mike’s achievement in the establishment of the Canadian Light Source, and his productive research and administrative career, he received Canada’s highest civilian honour when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.

In the first twenty years as a scientist, Mike became one of the world’s leading experts in Mössbauer spectroscopy. His pioneering work on Mössbauer studies of iron-57 in minerals included analysis of Apollo lunar samples. The importance of this very early work is demonstrated by the presence of a Mössbauer spectrometer on the US Mars probe in December 2003. Mike is also known as a pioneer in the use of x-ray spectroscopies (using laboratory ultra-violet and x-ray sources, as well as synchrotron
radiation) to record high resolution spectra of inorganic molecules, minerals, tribochemical films and other surfaces. Mike has been recognized for his scientific and scholarly work by numerous prizes from the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC at the age of 37), the Canadian Society of Chemistry, the American Chemical Society, and the British Chemical Society. He has published over 400 papers, given more than 150 invited talks, supervised 39 graduate students and 37 postdoctoral fellows, and worked with several large industries such as Dofasco, AECL, Imperial Oil, Chevron, and INCO. Most of the excellent students and post-docs who studied with Mike have gone on to have very productive careers in academia, industry and/or government. Mike’s contributions have gone far beyond physical chemistry and some of his most notable work has been at interfaces with mineralogists, tribologists, and industry.

Mike has had an active love of classical music as a boy and adult chorister, and as a piano and flute player. He is also an avid curler, golfer and tennis player. Global warming is a current passion, and he was active at the University of Western Ontario in helping to set up a pan-University Liberal Studies program to bring many disciplines together (including science, music and religion) to discuss important topics such as global warming. He, and his wife Joan, have two grown children, David and Catherine.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to ask, in the name of the Senate of the University of Manitoba, that you confer upon G. Michael Bancroft, the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

-citation delivered by mentor, Dr. Norman Hunter, Head, Department of Chemistry

G. Michael Bancroft