University of New Brunswick, Department of Chemistry fonds.-- 1935-1977 ; (predominant 1946-1972).-- 24 cu ft of textual records and 2 cu ft of photographs (21 b&w)

Administrative history: UNB's founders agreed in 1785 that the liberal arts and sciences would form the base of instruction. In 1837 the position of science was strengthened when James Robb (1837-1861) was appointed Professor of Chemistry and Natural Science. Robb established regular courses in chemistry, biology and geology as well as a well-equipped chemical laboratory which, in its day, was deemed one of the best in the Maritimes and Lower Canada. At Robb's death in 1861, his chair passed to Loring Woart Bailey (1861-1907).

Although trained as a chemist, Bailey was primarily interested in natural history and geology. During his term, responsibility for chemistry was given to the Professor of Civil Engineering. About 1907 and subsequent to Bailey's retirement, the sciences were reorganized, and chemistry was made a separate department. Despite this, chemistry developed slowly during the first three decades of the 1900s, hampered by a lack of funds, academic isolation and limited popular support.

Nevertheless, in the 1930s the groundwork was laid for departmental growth and development. In October 1930 Francis J. Toole (1930-1965), a graduate of McGill University, arrived at UNB to assume the position of Assistant Professor of Chemistry. For a year Toole worked under the guidance of UNB's then Professor of Chemistry, Adam Cameron (1913-1931). Following Cameron's death in 1931, Toole was appointed Professor of Chemistry. Due largely to his efforts and to post-war educational programmes, the department witnessed remarkable growth in the 1940s and 1950s.

Beginning in 1945, UNB's student enrollment increased dramatically as ex-servicemen took advantage of federal government monies set aside for education. At the same time, government funding to universities increased. By 1946, the chemistry department had hired two new professors and several lecturers. Furthermore, in 1948 Toole brought Czechoslovakian-born Karel Wiesner, an outstanding research scientist, to UNB. Wiesner's work attracted international attention. His stellar reputation also served to secure funds for research and to draw talented chemists to UNB's graduate school.

The creation of a graduate school was an integral part of Toole's plan to raise the university's academic standing. In 1950 UNB Senate passed a motion to appoint a Dean of Graduate Studies. Three years later the university conferred its first Ph.D. degree in chemistry. E.W.R. Steacie, a personal friend of Toole's, was instrumental in placing the chemistry graduate programme on a solid foundation. As Director of the National Research Council's Chemistry Division, Steacie often backed Toole's requests for scholarships, fellowships, and equipment grants. Toole also persuaded Lord Beaverbrook to establish Graduate Scholarships in Chemistry and to purchase chemistry texts for the university library.

Toole's tenure was marked by other achievements. During the 1940s, he and Karel Wiesner organized the popular summer seminars in chemistry which were attended by many leading scientists. He also oversaw the construction of a new chemistry building which opened in 1958. In 1963 Toole resigned as department head, and two years later he retired from teaching.

Czechoslovakian-born Zdenek Valenta (1953-) succeeded Toole as department head in 1963. A product of UNB's chemistry graduate school, Valenta had joined the department in 1953 as a special lecturer following completion of his Ph.D. During his 8 years as department chairman, Valenta worked to maintain the department's international reputation and to improve and expand academic and research programmes.


Bailey, Alfred G., ed. The University of New Brunswick Memorial Volume. The University of New Brunswick, 1950.

Toole, Francis James. Interview. With Janet Toole. University of New Brunswick Oral History Programme, 1973. (Archives and Special Collections Department, reference no. UA RG 153)

Brief biographical sketches of Francis J. Toole, Zdenek Valenta and Karel Wiesner may be found in Appendices AA, BB, and CC respectively.


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