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Our history

  • The Old Science building was located on the Broadway Campus at 200 Memorial Blvd in downtown Winnipeg.

    Scientific education in Manitoba predates the foundation of the University of Manitoba in 1877. Science was taught at the three Christian denominational founding colleges, Collège Sainte-Boniface (Roman Catholic), St. John’s College (Anglican), and Manitoba College (Presbyterian).

    Following the establishment of the University of Manitoba in 1877 and the transition from examination body to a teaching institution started a  new era of scientific education in Manitoba in 1904. Nearly 116 years following the arrival of the six specialists, science at the University of Manitoba is at the forefront of discovery and scientific education today!

  • Education at the University of Manitoba slowly but surely made the transition from the downtown Broadway campus to the now Fort Garry Campus.

    Classes and labs were once all conducted in the Old Science Building at 200 Memorial Boulevard but eventually began the transition in the 1920s,  initially housing physics and chemistry in the Fitzgerald Building and then occupying the New Science Building (Buller Building) after its construction in 1932, science classes were completely at the Fort Garry campus by the 1950s.

A journey through time

Explore the rich and diverse history of the Faculty of Science from its early beginnings in the denominational colleges to where we are now at the forefront of scientific education and advancement.

The original six

Science education at the University of Manitoba does not only originate 50 years ago, it dates back over 116 years at the first western university in Canada. Following the completion of the new University of Manitoba building in 1901, G. Bryce, E. Kenrick, and Laird were all appointed as the first lecturers at the infant university. All with half-time appointments and annual salaries of $1,000 (~$30,000 in 2019) and were to hold their appointments until the first appointments of full time professors were hired.

George Bryce spearheaded the task of finding adequate funding for the hiring of the new professors  and contacted Lord Strathcona, the then High Commissioner for Canada. Lord Strathcona was a well known wealthy financier who was responsible for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Strathcona agreed to fund the University of Manitoba. He provided $20,000 at a rate of $5,000 per year for the following four years. On April 7, 1904, University Council voted to hire 6 full time professors at annual salaries of $2,500. With only $5,000 a year of funding allocated by Bryce, how was the university able to full pay the other four professors? The three half time instructors’ contracts were discontinued and income from university lands provided enough funds.

Photo: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
Seated (L to R): Matthew A. Parker, A.H. Reginald Buller, Frank Allen, & R. Rutherford Cochrane
Standing (L to R): Gordon Bell & T. Swale Vincent

The six professors, all educated in various disciplines, arrived at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg on October 1, 1904 to begin the next phase in science education in Manitoba.

Professor Matthew Archibald Parker was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1871. A chemist by trade, Parker graduated with an undergraduate degree from the University of Glasgow in 1894. Following graduation, he made the move to the Royal Technical College where he accepted a position as an assistant lecturer in organic chemistry and held this appointment for the following 7 years. He later departed from the technical college and spent a year in Germany doing post-graduate work at the University of Heidelberg under the direction of Victor Meyer, but did not earn his Doctor of Philosophy. After he left the University of Heidelberg, he returned back to his alma mater, the University of Glasgow where he was an Assistant lecture. He left for Winnipeg in 1904 after marrying Margaret Blackie. He arrived at the University of Manitoba as the first formally trained professor of Chemistry. Much to Parker’s dismay, upon his arrival, he noticed that he had no teaching laboratory facilities. The only facilities that were available were to eight third and fourth year students. Within the next two years, he installed benches in the basement of the Science Building, which opened up the opportunities to expand chemical education to final-year medical students and second year arts students.

1905 was another big year for Science in Manitoba. That year, the scientific club of Winnipeg was formed and was strongly supported by Prof. Parker. Although Parker did not do much research of his own, he was a devoted educator. When the opportunity arose to expand the department, Parker would hire research chemists. He also hired demonstrators from the previous year’s graduating class, which allowed them the opportunity to conduct research. A student in Parker’s early days said that at the beginning of every lecture, Parker would always say “You will remember” before continuing the material from the class before. Parker retired after 33 years at the University of Manitoba in 1937 and passed away in 1953 at the age of 82. Matthew Parker’s legacy is preserved at the Fort Gary Campus with the Parker Chemistry building named in his honour.

The next of the professors,  Dr. Gordon Bell. Was born in Pembroke, ON, on May 22, 1863 to parents John and Mary Ann Bell. As a young boy, he attended Pembroke Collegiate, and later the University of Toronto for his Bachelor of Arts. Following a move to Winnipeg, he received his Medical Doctorate at the Manitoba Medical College (now College of Medicine). In 1890 he was appointed as the medical superintendent of the Brandon Hospital for the Insane and stayed there for 3 years. By 1896, the Office of the Provincial Bacteriologist was erected and he was named head of this department. With an already established and successful career, he married Grace MacEwan and had two children. By 1904, he was appointed as Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Manitoba. Although his time here is the “Faculty of Science” was much shorter than his colleagues. He left for the Manitoba Medical College in 1911 where the Department of Bacteriology remained exclusively and he held the position as head until his death in 1923.

At his death, colleague and superintendent of the Winnipeg General Hospital, Dr. G.F. Stephens said:

” Dr. Bell has been for many years a member of the consulting staff of the General Hospital and rarely a day passed that he was not called into consultation over some obscure case. This he always and willingly did, through his love for humanity and his profession, and not for any financial consideration. He was unique in this country in his broad knowledge of various branches of medicine and he so directed his vast knowledge to new development that he was almost an institution rather than an individual. Yet through it all his simplicity of demeanor and kindly disposition made him the best loved member of the medical fraternity in the western country. He is gone but his influence will carry on. The General Hospital has lost an old and true friend.”

Dr. Frank Allen was born on February 6, 1874 in Meduick, New Brunswick. He graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 1895 with his Bachelor of Arts degree where he received the Alumni Gold Medal. Five years later he received his Master of Arts (1900) followed by his Doctor of Philosophy in 1902, both from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Following graduation, Dr. Allen taught high school for the next two years. When the call for trained scientists went out for the University of Manitoba, Allen sought interest, and was later appointed as Professor of Physics and Crystallography in 1904. Throughout his long and distinguished career in physical scientists, he received numerous awards and honours ranging from honorary degrees in 1924 and 1945, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and H.N. Tony Gold Medal for scientific research in 1944. Throughout a career in education, his research in physics went nothing but unnoticed. He is responsible for the publication of over 300 research papers, with one of his more well known publications “The Universe from Crystal Spheres to Relativity” in 1931. Allen retired in 1944 but remained active with the university until his death in 1965. He was honoured in 1961 with the naming of the Allen Physics Building and later participated in the opening of the Cyclotron Laboratory in 1965, months prior to his passing.

The oldest of the professors, Dr. Robert Rutherford Cochrane was born on August 9, 1850 in the Sullivan Township, Country of Grey, Ontario to immigrant parents of Northern Ireland. As a young man, he tough school various institution until he landed at the University of Toronto in 1879 to study first class honours mathematics and physics. In 1886 he was appointed as the Principal of the Collegiate Institute in Leith, ON. By 1888, he was recruited as part of the foundation of Wesley College in Winnipeg for the position of Professor of Mathematics. Two days following his arrival, he opened the institution. He married Eva Rosetta Rielly on April 6, 1891 and was finally appointed as the first Professor of Mathematics in the Faculty of Science in 1904 at the University of Manitoba. He held this position until his death in 1910.

Dr. Thomas Swale Vincent was born on May 24, 1868 in Birmingham, England to Methodist schoolteachers. He received his Doctor of Medicine from Mason College. Under the instruction of Dr. Albrecht Kossel (1910 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), he studied physiological chemistry, which led him to accept the posting as demonstrator of physiology in Birmingham. Prior to his arrival to the University of Manitoba in 1904, he held various lectureship positions at University College, London, University of Cardiff, and the University of Edinburgh. Upon his arrival and acceptance of the position of Professor of Physiology and Zoology, he made advances in the study and research of ductless glands (now known as endocrine glands). Physiology and Zoology remained under the purview of the Faculty of Science until 1920 when it was transferred over to the Manitoba Medical College. It was in 1920 that Vincent left Winnipeg, and returned to Europe where he took a professorship at the University of London. Dr. T. Swale Vincent died on December 31, 1933 in St. Albans, England.

Last but not least, Dr. Arthur Henry Reginald Buller was born on August 19, 1874 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. As a young boy, his love of science originated back to his time at Queen’s College Taunton. He later transitioned to Mason College where he completed his undergraduate course work in botany, graduating from the affiliate University of London in 1896. He then received his PhD in 1899 under Dr. Wilhelm Pfeffer, completing his dissertation titled: “Die Wirkung von Bakterien auf tote Zellen”. Upon his arrival in Winnipeg, in the fall of 1904, little did he know, that he was going to become one of the most well known and distinguished professors in his field and from the University of Manitoba.

Buller made science his life work. He aimed to make triumphs of his research agencies. This motivation benefited him greatly as his interest in wheat rust increased and let him to the foundation of the Dominion Rust Research Laboratory to be established in Winnipeg rather than Ottawa. Dr. Buller was never married but was very supportive of women entering into scientific fields and became a teacher and mentor to successful female scientists and educators. He resided in hotel rooms in Winnipeg while he was teaching and researching and spent his off time back home in the United Kingdom. Buller retired in 1936 and later died in Winnipeg in 1944 at the age of 69.

A detailed and interesting history of Dr. Reginald Buller, titled “Reginald Buller: The Poet-Scientist of Mushroom City” written by Dr. L. Gordon Goldsborough, an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba, is available here.

“He was one of the world’s leading authorities on fungi, of which wheat rust is one, and was the author of what is perhaps the most exhaustive report on the subject over to be put in print. Published in six huge volumes over a period of 1909 and 1934, the work was the classic of his library which on the subject of fungi was said to be one of the most complete in the world.”


Photo: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections


Photo: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections


The beginning: 1820 – 1904

Prior to the foundation of the University of Manitoba, all higher education was the sole responsibility of three Christian denominational colleges: St. Boniface College (Roman Catholic), St. John’s College (Anglican) and Manitoba College (Presbyterian). St. Boniface College was the first of the three, founded in 1820, followed by the foundation of St. John’s College in 1866 and Manitoba College in 1871. Later, Wesley College (Methodist) would join as the fourth denominational college in 1888.

The instruction of scientific disciplines dates back to the foundation of the colleges. St. Boniface College was the first college to be founded in 1820 and is situated behind the Cathédrale de Sainte-Boniface overlooking the Red River thereby immersed in French Canadian culture. One of the first teachers of the college, Rev. Georges Dugas, was tasked with teaching the new clergymen. Catholic education was at the forefront of higher education at St. Boniface College as “religion was at the center of all education”. The next college to be founded was St. John’s College in 1866. Like St. Boniface College, religion was the central focus of education practices. Under the strict directorship of Bishop Robert Machray, mathematical and classical curricula were a top priority for his students. The last of the three original colleges was Manitoba College, founded in 1869. Manitoba College under the direction of Rev. John Black and Mr. David B. Whimster. Whimster was soon replaced by Rev. George Bryce. Rev. Bryce, although not a scientist by training, was one of the first science instructors to step foot into the Manitoba education system. He taught science curricula at Manitoba College as a Professor of Science and Literature.

After the founding of the first three colleges completed by 1871 and the Province of Manitoba was only a year old, there was already an increasing population with an urgent need for higher education. As the population continued to grow with an increase in religious diversity, a fear of conflict prompted the discussion to fund a university in Manitoba. The Province of Ontario previously suffered from conflict as to whether the province or the churches should have full control over higher education. A former trustee of Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Hon. Alexander Morris, the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba (1872-77) was aware of the struggles in Ontario and spearheaded the creation of a new nondenominational university in Manitoba.

The notion of forming a nondenominational university was met with some criticism, particularly from St. John’s and Manitoba Colleges, with concerns that if a university was actually necessary at that time. Surprisingly, a nondenominational institution was not problematic, although the affiliation of colleges remained a must. Bishop Taché of St. Boniface College had hesitations with Morris’ plans as he was concerned that the integrity of the Red River traditions and the French culture would be lost. After lengthy discussions with Morris, Robert Machray and the Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity, a compromise was made. The idea was to adopt a model from Napoleon’s University of France where the university would solely act as an examination body, not a teaching institution. Each college would act independently of one another, with its own curricula, teaching staff and students.

With hesitation from the Government of Manitoba and denominational colleges, the Attorney-General, Hon. Joseph Royal introduced a bill to establish a “Provincial University” on 28 February 1877. The University of Manitoba Act describes the structure of the University, which is led by a Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor with council. The Most Reverend Robert Machray and Archbishop of Rupert’s Land was appointed as the first Chancellor of the University of Manitoba in 1877 and remained in office until his death on 9 March 1904. The Honourable Joseph Royal was appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of the new University. As part of the University of Manitoba Act,  grants were provided from the Province of Manitoba annually in amounts of $250 (1877 -1883), $500 (1883-1886),  $1000 (1886-1889) and $2000 (1889). Other funds were allocated from another provincial act which provided funds from a five-year collection of marriage license receipts and which provided operational funds to the new University of Manitoba.

One year following the founding of the University of Manitoba, the first official examinations were held on 27 May 1878 with a group of seven Manitoba College students. The University of Manitoba conferred the first degree to Reginald William Gunn in 1880. Gunn was a Métis man enrolled in Manitoba College studying Natural Sciences and upon graduation, he was awarded the Governor General’s Silver Medal. Gunn has not only been remembered as the first graduate of the University of Manitoba but as the first Indigenous graduate of the University of Manitoba.

At this time, there was no formal campus of the University of Manitoba as all course instruction was taught at the respective denominational colleges. In 1885 the federal government approved and granted the University up to 150,000 acres of crown land in Manitoba as an endowment. Within subsequent years, a Land Board was established to determine how these vast acreages can be utilized by the University and land selection began by 1887. The Land Board requested 42,000 acres by 1889 and continued with their land selection in 1891.

In 1884 another dispute centralized around the payment of examiners. In consideration of the funds available, the University’s Board of Studies established the following examiner payments:

  • Classics and Mathematics, $40;
  • Moral, Mental and Natural Sciences, $30;
  • Modern Languages and History, $20.

The official establishment of Wesley College took place in 1888, however, the journey which led to its foundation began as the Wesleyan Institute in 1873, an establishment founded by the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Wesleyan Institute did not meet the conditions to affiliate with the University of Manitoba until 1883 when the amalgamation of the Methodist Churches. In 1886, a fundraising campaign made it possible for the expansion of Wesleyan Institute where is became Wesley College and part of the University of Manitoba in 1888.

Eighteen eighty-nine was an important year for the future of the University of Manitoba as discrepancies between the French and English versions of the University of Manitoba Act were found, which had remained unnoticed since its creation and adoption in 1877. The omission of the phrase “à present” in the French document changed the purpose of the Act entirely. The English version of the Act stated that the University will become a teaching and examination institution, whereas the French version of the Act stated that the University is prohibited from becoming a teaching institution, due to the omission. At the time of its foundation, the University was solely an examination body.

“… to establish one university as a whole of Manitoba.”
“… there shall be no professorships or teacherships.”

That same year, Miss Jessie Holmes became the first female graduate of the University of Manitoba. By June 1890, the University of Manitoba adopted mandatory matriculation examinations in subjects ranging from Latin and Mathematics to German, Physics and Botany. In 1892, the provincial legislature officially changed and began the move toward the University of Manitoba becoming a teaching institution.

The following year, instructors at English-speaking colleges were tasked with teaching science. George Bryce (Manitoba College) was responsible for teaching Zoology, Botany, Geology and Astronomy. Edgar B. Kenrick (St. John’s College) taught Chemistry. Lastly, George Jackson (Wesley College) was tasked with teaching Physics and Mineralogy. By 1891, this trio was known informally as the “Faculty of Science” and worked together they established the Bachelor of Arts Honours in Natural Sciences.

“We had little of everything and not much of anything. The age of the specialist had not yet arrived in Manitoba and I am inclined to suspect that the professor was sometimes only a day ahead of us in the subject he was teaching… One would have almost as much as I got in my final year to enter a science course today.”
Charles Camsell (50 years after graduating in the first B.A. Honours in Natural Sciences)

By 1895, enrollment in science at the University of Manitoba had grown to reach a total of 170 students.  At that time the Science Department had an allowance of $572 to fund the teaching of these students.

In anticipation of continued enrollment growth, a lack of infrastructure and appropriate spaces to teach large classes and laboratories, a committee was struck to determine a Winnipeg location for a new building equipped with large lecture theatres and laboratories. The construction of a new “Science” building was put on hold due to land patent disputes. However, by 1897 the University of Manitoba Act was amended and allotted an extra $60,000 from the province to the University for the development of a teaching college. The land patents were officially issued to the University in 1898. The only University building at the time was the McIntyre Block located at 416 Main Street. This building housed the offices of the University officials. In 1898, the McIntyre block was destroyed in a major fire. The majority of the University’s scientific equipment and early records were lost.

In 1899, an additional annual $6000 grant was received from the government, the University Council approved the construction of a new science building to be located at 200 Memorial Boulevard. The Science Building officially opened its doors in 1901.  Further amendments to the University Act allowed for the hiring of professors which made the initial push for the transition from an examination to a teaching institution. Bryce, Kenrick and Dr. George Laird (Professor of Physics, Chemistry and German at Wesley College) were appointed as half-time professors with salaries of $1000 per annum. One condition stated in their contracts was that their appointments were terminated when full-time specialists in the required scientific disciplines were appointed.

The Lord Strathcona, Donald Alexander Smith, provided a donation of $20,000 in four $5000 installments (1904, 1905, 1906 and 1907) to the University of Manitoba. This gift and the increase in the University’s annual revenues allowed for the establishment of the Faculty of Science with incoming chairs in Physics and Mineralogy, Bacteriology, Botany and Geology?, Chemistry, Physiology and Zoology all with salaries of $2500.00 per annum.

  • Matthew A. Parker (1871-1953), Chemistry
  • A.H. Reginald Buller (1874-1944), Botany and Geology
  • Frank Allen (1874-1965), Physics and Mineralogy?
  • Robert R. Cochrane (1850-1910), Mathematics
  • Gordon Bell (1863-1923), Bacteriology
  • T. Swale Vincent ( ~1868-1934), Physiology and Zoology

These first professors, “The Original Six”, were at the dawn of a new era of science education at the University of Manitoba in October 1904.

The Early Years: 1905-1937

The Original Six established the private society, The Scientific Club of Winnipeg (1905-1981), in the fall of 1905 with a mandate to:

“discuss new and current scientific questions and it is hoped that such discussion would act as a stimulus to original research on the part of the members.”

The inaugural meeting took place in the Botany Lecture Theatre at the University of Manitoba building on 24 October 1905 with eight members in attendance. From late 1905 to January 1906, the six professors determined a need for more funds for the University Library. The professors sent a request letter to the general public with a target goal of raising $24,000. However, they were only able to raise approximately $1000 toward the library fund.

A year following the arrival of the six specialists at the University of Manitoba, classes were now taught by the Original Six, experts in each of their respective fields. The first graduating class consisted of seven students who all received a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences. Thorburger Thorvaldson was among those graduates and he would go on to become the Head of Chemistry (1919-1948) and later the first Dean of Graduate Studies (1949-1959) at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

“The University building, which is designated the “University of Manitoba”, was put up for giving instruction in the various departments of natural and physical science. In 1904, the Faculty of Science was placed upon firm basis by the establishment of the professorships. Six University professors were appointed to take charge of ten departments of Science. The University, therefore, is no longer merely an examining body, but is also a teaching institution. Its instruction, however, is at present limited to the following subjects: Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Botany, Zoology, Geology, Mineralogy, Physiology, Bacteriology and Pathology. Owing to the available resources of the University being so small four professors have to take charge of two subjects. Thus, Prof. Bell teaching both Bacteriology with Pathology and also Histology; Prof. Allen has charge of both Physics and Mineralogy; Prof. Vincent, of Physiology and Zoology; and Prof. Buller teaches both Botany and Geology. Owing to the great development of Science it is quite impossible at the present day for any one man to be thoroughly master of two scientific subjects. As soon as funds are available new chairs will doubtless be established in order to secure the teaching of these sciences in a manner worthy of a modern University.”
  • Winnipeg Tribune, 15 December 1906.

In 1907, the six professors had a goal of increasing the reach of scientific knowledge and education to the wider community. The “First Series of February Popular Lectures” occurred that same year at a cost of $0.50 for admission. That same year, with increasing interest in the Scientific Club of Winnipeg, attendance increased from eight attendees at the inaugural meeting to 18 after a year of its operation and by the 1906-07 academic year, there were 15 more members added, making a total of 32 members. With increasing interest, a membership fee was introduced, $2.00 per annum for non-smokers and $3.00 for smokers.

With the increasing popularity of scientific study and education and the push toward a modernized way of learning, the annual general meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now British Science Association) was held at the University of Manitoba in 1909. At that time and still today, it is argued to be one of the most important scientific meetings to be held in Winnipeg. George Bryce was put in charge of organizing this monumental event and received a grant of $60,000 from the government to cover expenses.

Throughout the early 20th century, infrastructure development continued at the University of Manitoba. On 26 June 1907, Frederick William Heubach offered the University of Manitoba on behalf of Tuxedo Park Co. the use of 150 acres of land for the development of a campus on the southern border of Assiniboine Park.

With increasing enrollment numbers and expanding departments at the evolving modern institution, a $12,000 temporary building was erected north of the original University building on Broadway. The following year in 1910, a call for the establishment of a Board of Governors took place and required a larger permanent site and President be chosen for the University of Manitoba.

“We are casting longing eyes in the direction of the jail, brewery, All Saints’ Church and the Pickle Factory. The jail we would naturally use for a law school, the church for the Department of Astronomy and the Pickle Faculty for Botany, but fear the brewery would not be given over to any one department without bloodshed.” – Dr. Frank Allen, 1912

In 1910, the Faculty of Science began its expansion. Geology was made a separate professorship and Dr. Robert Wallace was hired that year. Further changes occurred in 1911 when Astronomy was amalgamated with the Department of Mathematics with a change in leadership. Dr. Robert Cochrane died on 3 April 1910 from complications with diabetes and Dr. Neil B. McLean assumed headship in 1910. He held this position until 1928. That same year, Dr. Gordon Bell, Head of Bacteriology was transferred when the Department was amalgamated with the Faculty of Medicine. Bell held the position of Head until his death as a result of blood poisoning in 1923. Until 1912, Faculty of Science graduates would receive the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences.  The Bachelor of Science degree was introduced in 1912 by the University Council which introduced a new honours program in the Faculty of Science

Further amendments to the University of Manitoba Act occurred in 1911/1912 which called for the appointment of a President. On 15 February 1912, a committee was struck and by 12 December 1912, Dr. James A. Maclean accepted the appointment as the first President of the University of Manitoba effective 1 January 1913.

By the end of 1913, the University agreed to construct a permanent home for the University of Manitoba at the site of the old Agricultural College (now Fort Garry Campus). Years earlier, Frederick William Heubach offered the University of Manitoba on behalf of Tuxedo Park Co. the use of 150 acres of land for the development of a campus on the southern border of Assiniboine Park. The provincial government was also unwilling to provide funds for construction at the Tuxedo site, although, they were willing to convey 137 acres of land between the Manitoba Agricultural College and the Red River in St. Vital. The Province also agreed to construct and equip an engineering building or buildings required by the University.

In 1915, the Science Students’ Association was founded with the inaugural President and Vice-President being W.D. Clarke and Annie Norrington, respectively. The following year, Annie Norrington assumed the Office of the President and became the first female to hold the office of the President of the Science Students’ Association.  The following year marked another milestone for the Faculty of Science. The University of Manitoba conferred its first Bachelor of Science degree to Ezra Allen Thompson. In 1917, two more Bachelor of Science degrees were conferred to Urban David Clark and Annie Norrington. That same year Annie Norrington became the first female graduate of the Faculty of Science.

The course curriculum was developing rapidly each year. In the late 1890s, Rev. George Bryce was responsible for teaching the only astronomy course at the University of Manitoba and across all the colleges. Thirty years later, four undergraduate and one graduate course in astronomy were now offered to science students.

That same year, the Department of Physiology and Zoology split into two independent departments. Dr. Vincent remained the Head of Physiology until its amalgamation with Medicine in 1920. Dr. Vincent then returned to the United Kingdom that summer for a professorship at the University of London.

Prior to 1921, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science remained separate entities. At this time, the University faculties were becoming overgrown and were in need of reorganization. The result of the reorganization was a  formation of a General Faculty, which was composed of individual faculties, with the faculties then further organized into individual departments.  By January 1921, two new faculties were created Faculty of Arts and Science and the Faculty of Engineering. The Faculty of Medicine was the third addition to the General Faculty at the University of Manitoba. The University Council was responsible for electing and appointing Deans for the faculties. Professor William Tier, from the Department of Mathematics, was appointed the first Dean of Arts and Science and reappointed until his retirement in 1939. The new Faculty of Arts and Science consisted of a small number of disciplines organized into various departments and provided varying courses at the undergraduate level and limited availability of graduate-level courses.

Prior to 1924, the Department of Architecture was part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. However, in 1924, Architecture amalgamated with  Engineering to become the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. Enrollment in the next few years was on an exponential increase. In 1925, University of Manitoba student enrollment in all areas reached 1925 students and only 2 years later, student enrollment reached an all-time high at 3,456, making the University of Manitoba the third largest University in Canada.

Throughout the first 20 years of the Faculty of Science establishment, Dr. Buller became a well-respected, sought-after researcher and mentor in the field of botany. He attracted students from all over the world to come study under his supervision. The first Doctor of Philosophy degree conferred at the University of Manitoba was awarded in 1928 to Dr. Buller’s doctoral student, William Fielding Hanna.

By 1929, the Manitoba Agriculture College had been integrated into the University of Manitoba and the expansion of the University continued with the Manitoban government assisting the University with the construction of new buildings on the large riverside acreage at the site of the Manitoba Agriculture College (which later became the present Fort Garry Campus). During these years of expansion, upper-year arts and science classes were held on the new site, whereas the introductory level courses remained at the Broadway campus until 1950.

In 1930 another PhD was conferred in the Faculty of Science to Patrick A. MacDonald, the recipient of the first PhD in physics from the Department of Physics. MacDonald went on to spend his entire career working at the Cancer Relief and Research Institute on the utility of radiation in the treatment of cancer.

During this time, construction had begun on the new Faculty of Arts and Sciences buildings. The temporary home for the Departments of Chemistry and Physics was the latterly named Fitzgerald Building. By 1932 the new Science Building and Arts Building opened at the site of the Fort Garry Campus. The Science Building (now Buller Building) was designed by architect A.A. Stoughton (1867-1955) and was constructed to house facilities for teaching and research purposes in science.

During the 1935-36 academic year the Sellers Scholarship began to be offered to students. This scholarship awarded $100.00 to ten students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and Science.  The Faculty of Arts and Science expanded harmoniously until 1934 when two students, Ben Lavadie and John Launder, published a call in the science student newsletter, “Question Mark”, for the separation of Arts and Science and to creation two individually operating faculties.

By 1937, Matthew Parker retired as Professor and Head of the Department of Chemistry. He spent over 30 years developing and changing history in science education at the University of Manitoba. At the time of his retirement, he said:

“At the time of my retirement, I had 100 times as many chemistry students at the end of my career than I did at the beginning. This was partly due to the increasing popularity in the subject but also the requirement for other programs offered at the University.”

Following Matthew Parker’s retirement, the position of Head of the Department of Chemistry was succeeded by Dr. Henry P. Armes.  Nearly 30 years prior, Dr. Henry Armes arrived at the University of Manitoba beginning his career as a Demonstrator in the infant Department of Chemistry. At the time of his arrival, there were only 12 lecturers and professors employed. A few years after, Dr. Armes took a leave of absence to join the Western Universities Battalion in France with the 46th infantry during World War I. He was seriously wounded in Passchendaele, Belgium and lost his leg as a result of the injury.

Expanding the World of Science: 1938-1969

In the 1930s the University of Manitoba was on an upward climb with increasing enrollment numbers, the addition of new faculty members and constant infrastructure development. In the early morning of 12 January 1939, an explosion, thought to be caused by a propane leak in a botany laboratory, caused significant damage to the ground through the fourth floor of the Science Building. At the time of the disaster, the building was virtually empty, with the exception of two custodians, Bill McColl and Bill Thomas, who only suffered minor injuries. Later that year on 39 March 1939, the inaugural Dean of Arts and Science, William Tier died and Dr. Henry P. Armes, the current Head of the Department of Chemistry was appointed as Tier’s successor.

By the early 1940s, World War II had impacted all corners of the earth and the University of Manitoba was not spared. Residence capacity and enrollment hit an all-time high due to the presence of Army soldiers on campus. All able-bodied 18-year-old male students were required to attend six hours of military training weekly and all students 21 years and older were required two weeks of practical military training in a camp setting. Following 1941, 90% of female students were enlisted in a variety of sectors to aid in war response efforts. With such success in the University of Manitoba’s war response efforts, institutions and organizations from across the country were reaching out to Ursulla Macdonnell, Dean of Women, to seek her experience in the implementation of such successful programming.

Following Dr. Buller’s retirement in 1936, he was still actively involved in the university community and continued his world-class research efforts. In November 1942, Dr. Buller received a memo from the University Comptroller, F. Walter Crawford, to vacate his office in the near future. To his dismay, he did not receive sympathy from Dean Armes and began packing up his 40-year career.

“I have now decided to leave the University of Manitoba – the University that I have served as a teacher and research worker for so many years – and seek accommodation in some other institution in which productive scholarship is more sympathetically regarded that it is here … The room which I am to vacate .. has been, among other things: the birth of the idea of establishing the Dominion Rust Research Laboratory; the writing of the six volumes of my Researches on Fungi that are known to botanists all over the world… the writing of my Essays on Wheat… the visits of a number of Presidents of Universities, including Sir Oliver Lodge [University of Birmingham] and consultations with many distinguished scientists… long before President Sidney Smith or Dr. Armes or you yourself has any interest in the University. I shall leave my room with much regret, but with the hope that it will not be occupied by a non-entity, but by someone who will spread the fame of the University around the world to a degree at least equal to that accomplished by myself…” – A.H. Reginald Buller, November 1942

Significant changes to science at the University of Manitoba came again in 1943. The Faculty of Arts and Science not only had established a School of Social Work but saw the end of an era with the retirement of Dr. Frank Allen, founding head of the Department of Physics and one of the Original Six. Over the next few years, the University saw major changes in Faculty and University administration with the departure of original faculty members and an influx of new heads of departments and change in university administration. In 1944, Dr. Henry Armes was appointed as the 3rd President of the University of Manitoba.

Following the end of the war, there was another influx in student enrollment at the University. The University saw an increase in 3125 veterans, bringing enrollment to 9514, causing space and equipment availability concerns at the growing institution. By September 1946, the University built married veteran huts on the Broadway Campus to allow for the ever-growing and diverse university population.

Dr. A.H.S Gillson, a student of Sir George Darwin (son of British naturalist Charles Darwin) was appointed to the position of Dean of Arts and Sciences in 1947 and served until 1948 when he was appointed the 5th President of the University of Manitoba. Dr. W.J. Waines succeeded Dr. Gillson as Dean of Arts and Sciences in 1948 and remained in office until 1961 when he was appointed as Vice-President of the University.

On 18 May 1948, the University of Manitoba hit yet another milestone. The 70th Annual Convocation was held at the Winnipeg Auditorium with the largest number of graduates to date, 1,520 students graduated that year. The 32nd First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) and gave an address to students and faculty during this Special Convocation ceremony.

In May of 1950 disaster struck again on the Fort Garry Campus of the University of Manitoba. The campus spent 29 days submerged under water as a result of a major Winnipeg flood. Water covered 1100 acres of the University property, with water levels reaching their greatest depths of 0.56 meters on the road in front of the Administration Building.

The Department of Mathematical Physics was formed in 1950 under the direction of Dr. A.H.S Gillson. Following a change in leadership in the department, the Department of Mathematical Physics joined the Department of Physics in 1965.

Dr. Hugh H. Saunderson, a Professor from the Department of Chemistry, served as the 6th President of the University (1954-1970) and became the first University of Manitoba Alumnus to hold this office. Dr. Saunderson saw major university expansion during his term, especially in the expansion of the Faculty of Arts and Science. In 1956, the Department of Microbiology (then named the Department of Bacteriology and Animal Pathology) was transferred from the Faculty of Agriculture. In its infancy, the Department of Microbiology was led by Dr. Thomas Payne, the first Head of Microbiology.

In 1957, Dr. B.G. Whitmore, Head of the Department of Physics (1957-1965) submitted a proposal to the University of Manitoba and the Atomic Energy Control Board for the construction of a Cyclotron Research Laboratory on the University of Manitoba Fort Garry Campus. This project was later accepted and construction began in 1959 below Parking Lot A and adjacent to the Physics building which was also under construction. The Cyclotron Research Laboratory officially opened its doors in October 1965 with Dr. Frank Allen in attendance. One month later, Dr. Frank Allen died.

In 1959, the Louis Slotin Memorial Lecture Series was established and the first lecture occurred on 3 February 1959. The Louis Slotin Memorial Lecture Series was established and named in honour of alumnus, Dr. Louis Slotin [BSc/32, MSc/33] who was killed in Los Alamos, NM in 1946 during the development of the atomic bomb.

Dr. William M. Sibley assumed the deanship of the Faculty of Arts and Science in 1961 and assisted in the push toward another history-making moment in 1970. The enrollment numbers in 1961 in Arts and Science made up of nearly half the entire student body population at the University of Manitoba and was continually on the rise. With increasing administrative duties of the enormous Faculty, Dean Sibley recruited physicist, Dr. Robert Connor as Associate Dean to aid with the duties and needs of Science. With increasing needs from both the Arts and Science, the consideration to separate faculties began in 1964, marking the beginning of a new era of Science at the University of Manitoba.

On 5 May 1961, three new buildings dedicated to scientific education opened their doors. The Allen Physics Laboratory, the Parker Chemistry Laboratory, and the Armes Lecture Building are all named in honour of some of the original and founding members of science education at the University of Manitoba. Two years following, the Science building underwent significant renovations and became fully devoted to biological sciences, and was then renamed the Buller Biological Laboratories in honour of Dr. A.H. Reginald Buller.

In 1965, Associate Dean Connor met with Deputy Minister of Mines and Natural Resources who bequeathed Bain Estate, a property located in the south end of Lake Manitoba, to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at $1 per annum. With the enormous efforts of botany professor, Dr. Jennifer Shay, Delta Marsh Field Station became a successful hub for field education at the University of Manitoba for years to come.

Soon after, more infrastructure advancements were made in Science. Associate Dean Connor was tasked with the decision to choose between one of the two infrastructure options. Plans had been created for a large lecture block to be built underground in front of the Buller Building. With the consistently increasing student population in the Faculty of Arts and Science, this would provide appropriate space for large-capacity lectures for our students. The other option was the construction of a building to house both the Departments of Zoology and Psychology. Dr. Connor decided on the second option and informally name the Zoology/Psychology building,  “Zoo-Psyc”. Construction went to tender in November 1966 with plans of completion in May 1969, however opening of the new facility did not open until later in 1970.

In 1967, the Department of Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics was a single department, however, as of 1 July 1967, the Statistics separate into its own standalone department under the headship of Dr. A. Lloyd Dulmage.

That same year additional floors were added to the Allen and Parker buildings to accommodate quick and vast expansions of both departments. This increasing expansion was followed by the offering of select televised first-year classes to accommodate the increasing enrollment numbers. Discussions of a separate Faculty of Science and Faculty of Arts continued in early 1968. A vote in the Faculty Council of NOT TO SPLIT occurred in both March and April of that year with a fear that a split might not be into two, but into four: Humanities and Social Sciences, Mathematical Science, and other Sciences. Throughout the discussions and motions for division, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences would frequently host a series of off-campus meetings called “Lost Weekends” where a group of over 40 students and faculty members met to discuss the plans for the future of their educational institution.

By 1969, the Faculty of Arts and Science consisted of 22 departments, 141 academic staff members and countless numbers of support staff. A final vote occurred in mid-1969 and history was made on 3 April 1969 when a motion was passed in the University of Manitoba Senate for the creation of a Faculty of Science and a Faculty of Arts. 63 people voted for, 1 opposed, and 5 abstentions. Following the vote.

“Matters moved quickly to an amicable divorce.” – Dean Emeritus Robin Connor, 1995

Great Science Happens Here: 1970-2020

On 1 July 1970, the Faculty of Science was officially an independent faculty once more since its initial amalgamation with the Faculty of Arts in 1921. Prior to the separation, Dr. A. Lloyd Dulmage was acting Dean of Arts and Science (1969-1970), however, following the separation, Dr. Donald McCarthy assumed deanship of the Faculty of Arts (1970-1977) and Dr. Robert Connor, the former Associate Dean of Arts and Science and Professor of Physics was appointed as the first Dean of the Faculty of Science. With the Faculty of Science in its infancy, the first duty of the Science Council was to appoint Dean Sibley as the first Dean Emeritus of Science in recognition for his years of service to Science at the University of Manitoba. That same year a further shift in administration occurred, Professor of Chemistry and President, Dr. Hugh Saunderson retired from the University after 16 years in the presidency role, Dr. E. Sirluck, another University of Manitoba alum, assumed the role and remained until 1976.

Not only did the Faculty of Science become independent in 1970, it saw the establishment of the Department of Computer Science.  The first Head of Computer Science was Dr. Ralph G. Stanton who served until his retirement in 1989.  During his tenure, he saw the establishment and rapid advancement of the department, including a successful cooperative education program. That year also saw the renaming of the Department of Geology to the Department of Earth Sciences.

In the early 1970s, the Faculty of Science experienced continual infrastructure expansion. This began with the opening of the “Zoo-Psyc” building, which was later named the Duff Roblin Building in honour of the 14th Premiere of Manitoba, Dufferin “Duff” Roblin (1917-2010). One-half of the Duff Roblin Building would become home to the Department of Zoology and the other half to the Department of Psychology. Next, in 1972, the Machray Hall Building opened and was named in honour of the first Chancellor of the University of Manitoba, The Most Reverend Robert Machray. This building became the home of the Faculty of Science Dean’s Office, Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy later Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. Not only were there advancements in the infrastructure and teaching facilities, but in 1972 the Faculty of Science opened resource centers to supply out-of-class support for students: Calculus Crisis Centre, The Resource Centre in Chemistry and the Tutorial System in Physics.

The same year that Dr. Connor was appointed as Dean, he requested and received permission for the hiring of two Associate Deans. Dr. Phil Issac, a botanist and the Provincial Mycologist was tasked to oversee the Department of Botany/Zoology,  Dr. Iain Cook (1970-1976) then Dr. Norm Campbell and Dr. Brian MacPherson were tasked with looking over the student-oriented aspects of the Faculty and finally Dean Connor was responsible for everything else.

In 1973, University of Manitoba faculty members sought certification from the Manitoba Labour Board to become an official Bargaining Unit. The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) was accepted as a Bargaining Unit on 15 November 1974. At this time, there were discussions as to whether Department Heads should be considered a part of the union. Science felt they should not be and Arts felt Head should be included. Following the discussion with the Manitoba Labour Board, the Board ruled that the Heads were to be included as UMFA members.

The Department of Applied Mathematics was a new department established in 1974, with Dr. Felix A. Arscott as Head (1974-1986).

The number of Science faculty members was constantly on the rise, in 1975 there were 219 faculty members, a 58-person increase since the inaugural year of the Faculty of Science 5 years earlier. Student enrollment on the other hand was following an opposite trend. In 1970, there were approximately 3530 undergraduate science students, then slowly decreased to 2960 in 1980, then peaked again in 1983 at 4440 students.

Astronomy education continued to advance, following the opening of the Lockhart Planetarium in 1962 and the Glenlea Astronomical Observatory opened in 1976. The Glenlea Observatory is located approximately 20 kilometers south of the University of Manitoba Fort Garry Campus and free from the glare of city lights. This facility is now equipped with a 40cm Evans’ Telescope and is a teaching facility for first and second-year astronomy courses.

In 1979, Dr. Connor retired as Dean of Science and was succeeded by chemist, Dr. Charles C. Bigelow.

The Department of Computer Science was on a rapid expansion throughout its first ten years since the inception of the department. In 1982, Dr. Mike Doyle, head of Computer Science, led the development of a Cooperative Education (Co-op) program. This was the first co-op program of its kind at the University of Manitoba and remained as such for many years. The initial cohort of the Computer Science co-op program was made up of 30 students and rapidly grew due to its incredible success. The Computer Science co-op program grew from its initial 30 students to become part of a strong Faculty of Science Co-op program where there are over 900 students in 2019. Around the same time of the co-op program development, computer science was a rapidly developing and recognized field, resulting in a spike in computer science enrollment at the University of Manitoba in the mid-1980s.

Twenty years after the opening of the Cyclotron Research Laboratory, the facility officially changed its name to the Accelerator Center. In 1986 the scope of research was expanded in the Accelerator Center due to Dr. Jasper McKee, Professor of Physics, broadening the research areas rather than being centrally focused on nuclear physics. However, a few years later, the Accelerator Center ceased operations in 1989, closing its doors after over 20 years of research.

That same year, Dr. Bigelow left the role as Dean of Science when Dr. Harley Cohen assumed the role until 1994. Following the departure of Dr. Cohen in 1994, Dr. James C. Jamieson stepped into the role of Dean of Science in 1994 and remained until 2004 when Dr. Mark D. Whitmore was appointed as Dean of Science.

In 1990, the Faculty of Science appointed the first female department head. Dr. Lynn Batten was appointed as Head of Mathematics and following her time at the University of Manitoba she went on to Deakin University in Australia.

In 1995, the Faculty of Science celebrated 25 years as an independent faculty and concluded with a celebration on 15 September 1995.

“I would like to say for the half century celebrations, ‘Same place, same time’, but I fear not. Those celebrations will have to be left in the hands of others. – Robert Connor, 15 September 1995

In 1998, following a change in headship a few years prior in the Department of Applied Mathematics, the Departments of “Mathematics and Astronomy” and “Applied Mathematics” were reconfigured. The Mathematics Division of Mathematics and Astronomy was combined with the Department of Applied Mathematics and was renamed and is now the present-day Department of Mathematics. Finally, the Astronomy division of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy was transferred to the Department of Physics and was renamed to the present-day Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Since 1912, the original Department of Geology and Mineralogy underwent a variety of name changes and leadership changes over the course of its history. By 1986, the Department underwent its final name change from the Department of Earth Science (1970-1986) to the Department of Geological Sciences.

That same year, the Faculty of Science was continually expanding and justified the construction of a new building. The Wallace Building was built to house the Department of Geological Sciences. However, by 2003, the Senate and the Board of Governors approved the formation of a new faculty and the transfer of the Department of Geological Science to what became the Clayton H. Riddel Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources.

The Buller Building had been a site of major renovation for over 10 years, beginning in 2001. These extensive renovations brought this historic research facility built in 1932 up to date with modern facilities and equipment. Extensive modifications to sewer systems, electrical, roofing, flooring and more occurred prior to the major upgrades that began in phase one in 2006. Disruptions to research activities due to the constant movement of labs, offices and equipment occurred over the entire renovation period. The renovations were on a smooth path to completion until 2009 when a fire in the Duff Roblin building caused major congestions as many faculty offices and research groups were relocated.  The Duff Roblin Building suffered major damages as a result of the fire which caused over $40M in damage and years of repairs.

Following the construction of the new Engineering & Information Technology Complex (EITC) in 2005, the Department of Computer Science made the move from Machray Hall to the newly built Engineering Complex. Science education in the life sciences was found across many departments in the Faculty of Science.  In the past, students wishing to study biological sciences would take courses from the Department of Botany, Department of Zoology, or the Biology Teaching Unit. In 2007, Botany, Zoology and the Biology Teaching Unit amalgamated to form the Department of Biological Sciences under the leadership of Dr. Judith Anderson (2007-2017), the first Head of Biological Sciences and the second female department head in the Faculty of Science History.

Beginning in 2008, the Manitoba Chemical Analysis Laboratory (MCAL) was established in the Department of Chemistry. Following a $1M renovation, the new MCAL facility is a leading teaching and research facility. Further renovations to both the Parker Chemistry Building and Armes Lecture Theatre began the following year and would proceed and continue over the next decade. Renovations included the organic chemistry teaching labs, the physical chemistry teaching lab named in honour of Dr. McBride, the first-year undergraduate chemistry teaching labs, the Hultin Memorial Study Room in memory of Dr. Phil Hultin, Armes lecture theatres, the Science Students’ Association Lounge, the Science Courtyard and finally the Faculty of Science Dean’s Office in Machray Hall.

By May 2011, the majority of the indoor renovation projects previously started were nearing completion and work on the exterior began, including some landscaping. However, renovations to undergraduate teaching labs were started. In 2013, renovations were completed in the Buller Building with only minor modifications and upgrading of equipment remaining. The Departments of Biological Sciences and Microbiology returned and research activity resumed in full force after over 12 years of renovations.

A few years prior, the College of Pharmacy relocated to the University of Manitoba Bannatyne Campus to its new home in the Apotex Building. Following renovations, the Department of Biological Sciences moved into its new home in the old Pharmacy Building in 2012 and was renamed the Biological Sciences Building.

Dr. Stefi Allison Baum was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science in 2014, first female Dean of Science at the University of Manitoba. Under the directorship of Dean Baum, the Faculty of Science implemented its first Indigenous Strategic Plan, which led to the development of the Wawatay Project in 2020.

After the Cyclotron Particle Accelerator Laboratory closed its doors in 1986, the space remained vacant for years. However following an extensive $16.7 million renovation, the space became the home for the new Manitoba Institute for Materials in 2016. In 2019, further renovations were done in the Faculty of Science. The Faculty of Science Courtyard was completed along with updates to the Armes Building.

Over the decades, the Faculty of Science has become a hub for groundbreaking scientific research and education, across many disciplines. The accomplishments of our faculty, staff and alumni are impressive.

Our history has proven that our institution continues to have a global impact with will continue for not only the next 50 years but for generations to come. Our accomplishments include both nominations and later recipients of Nobel Prizes, world-renowned rocket scientists, leaders in spectroscopy and many many more. We are excited to see what the future holds for scientific education and research in the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba!

“It’s a place and point in time that allows us to reflect on where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished, how we’ve changed as an institution and allows us to think about what are we going to do in the next 50 years?” – Dr. Stefi A. Baum, , Dean of Science

The Faculty of Science celebrated 25 years as an independent faculty in 1995. The anniversary event was held on 15 September 1995 and a special lecture was given by Dean Emeritus Dr. Robert Connor in honour of this milestone anniversary.

Read Dr. Conor's Homecoming Special Lecture

Past and present deans of the Faculty of Science

  • Deans of Arts and Science

    In 1921, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science combined to form the Faculty of Arts and Science under the direction of the first Dean of Arts and Sciences, mathematician, William Tier.

    • William Tier (1921 - 1939)
    • Henry P. Armes (1939 - 1943)
    • Hugh H. Saunderson (1944 - 1947)
    • William Waines (1947 - 1961)
    • William Sibley (1961 - 1969)
  • Deans of Science

    The past and present deans of art and science.

    • Robert (Robin) D. Connor (1970 - 1979)
    • Charles C. Bigelow (1979 - 1989)
    • Harley Cohen (1989 - 1994)
    • James C. Jamieson (1994 - 2004)
    • Mark D. Whitmore (2004 - 2014)
    • Stefia A. Baum (2014 - 2021)
    • Brian Mark (Present)


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Faculty of Science
230 Machray Hall, 186 Dysart Rd
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2 Canada

Our office is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.