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"NEV" 2003 Obituary


NEVILLE 

NEVILLE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-04-12 published
'He kept a little flame of geometry alive'
Superstar University of Toronto mathematician considered himself an artist, but his seminal work inevitably found practical applications
By Siobhan ROBERTS Saturday, April 12, 2003 - Page F11
Widely considered the greatest classical geometer of his time and the man who saved his discipline from near extinction, Harold Scott MacDonald COXETER, who died on March 31 at 96, said of himself, with characteristic modesty, "I am like any other artist. It just so happens that what fills my mind is shapes and numbers."
Prof. COXETER's work focused on hyperdimensional shapes, specifically the symmetry of regular figures and polytopes. Polytopes are geometric shapes of any number of dimensions that cannot be constructed in the real world and can be visualized only when the eye of the beholder possesses the necessary insight; they are most often described mathematically and sometimes can be represented with hypnotically intricate fine-line drawings.
"I like things that can be seen," Prof. COXETER once remarked. "You have to imagine a different world where these queer things have some kind of shape."
Known as Donald (shortened from MacDonald,) Prof. COXETER had such a passion for his work and unrivalled elegance in constructing and writing proofs that he motivated countless mathematicians to pick up the antiquated discipline of geometry long after it had been deemed passé.
John Horton CONWAY, the Von Neumann professor of mathematics at Princeton University, never studied under Prof. COXETER, but he considers himself an honorary student because of the COXETERian nature of his work.
"With math, what you're doing is trying to prove something and that can get very complicated and ugly. COXETER always manages to do it clearly and concisely," Prof. CONWAY said. "He kept a little flame of geometry alive by doing such beautiful works himself.
"I'm reminded of a quotation from Walter Pater's book The Renaissance. He was describing art and poetry, but he talks of a small, gem-like flame: 'To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.' "
Prof. COXETER's oeuvre included more than 250 papers and 12 books. His Introduction to Geometry, published in 1961, is now considered a classic -- it is still in print and this year is back on the curriculum at McGill University. His Regular Polytopes is considered by some as the modern-day addendum to Euclid's Elements. In 1957, he published Generators and Relations for Discrete Groups, written jointly with his PhD student and lifelong friend Willy MOSER. It is currently in its seventh edition.
Prof. COXETER's self-image as an artist was validated by his Friendship with and influence on Dutch artist M. C. ESCHER, who, when working on his Circle Limit 3 drawings, used to say, "I'm Coxetering today."
They met at the International Mathematical Congress in Amsterdam in 1954 and then corresponded about their mutual interest in repeating patterns and representations of infinity. In a letter to his son, Mr. ESCHER noted that a diagram sent to him by Prof. COXETER that inspired his Circle Limit 3 prints "gave me quite a shock."
He added that " COXETER's hocus-pocus text is no use to me at all.... I understand nothing, absolutely nothing of it."
While Mr. ESCHER claimed total ignorance of math, Prof. COXETER wrote numerous papers on the Dutchman's "intuitive geometry."
Though Prof. COXETER did geometry for its own sake, his work inevitably found practical application. Buckminster FULLER encountered his work in the construction of his geodesic domes. He later dedicated a book to Prof. COXETER: "By virtue of his extraordinary life's work in mathematics, Prof. COXETER is the geometer of our bestirring twentieth century. [He is] the spontaneously acclaimed terrestrial curator of the historical inventory of the science of pattern analysis."
Prof. COXETER's work with icosohedral symmetries served as a template of sorts in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the Carbon 60 molecule. It has also proved relevant to other specialized areas of science such as telecommunications, data mining, topology and quasi-crystals.
In 1968, Prof. COXETER added to his list of converts an anonymous society of French mathematicians, the Bourbakis, who actively and internationally sought to eradicate classical geometry from the curriculum of math education.
"Death to Triangles, Down with Euclid!" was the Bourbaki war cry. Prof. COXETER's rebuttal: "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But the Bourbakis were sadly mistaken."
One member of the society, Pierre CARTIER, met Prof. COXETER in Montreal and became enamoured of his work. Soon, he had persuaded his fellow Bourbakis to include Prof. COXETER's approach in their annual publication. "An entire volume of Bourbaki was thoroughly inspired by the work of COXETER," said Prof. CARTIER, a professor at Denis Diderot University in Paris.
In the 1968 volume, Prof. COXETER's name was writ large into the lexicon of mathematics with the inauguration of the terms "COXETER number," " COXETER group" and "COXETER graph."
These concepts describe symmetrical properties of shapes in multiple dimensions and helped to bridge the old-fashioned classical geometry with the more au courant and applied algebraic side of the discipline. These concepts continue to pervade geometrical discourse, several decades after being discovered by Prof. COXETER.
Prof. COXETER became a serious mathematician at the relatively late age of 14, though family folklore has it that, as a toddler, he liked to stare at the columns of numbers in the financial pages of his father's newspaper.
He was born into a Quaker family in Kensington, just west of London, on February 9, 1907. His mother, Lucy GEE, was a landscape artist and portrait painter, and his father, Harold, was a manufacturer of surgical instruments, though his great love was sculpting.
They had originally named their son MacDonald Scott COXETER, but a godparent suggested that the boy's father's name should be added at the front. Another relative then pointed out that H.M.S. COXETER made him sound like a ship of the royal fleet so the names were switched around.
When Prof. COXETER was 12, he created his own language -- "Amellaibian" a cross between Latin and French, and filled a 126-page notebook with information on the imaginary world where it was spoken.
But more than anything he fancied himself a composer, writing several piano concertos, a string quartet and a fugue. His mother took her son and his musical compositions to Gustav HOLST. His advice: "Educate him first."
He was then sent to boarding school, where he met John Flinders PETRIE, son of Egyptologist Sir Flinders PETRIE. The two were passing time at the infirmary contemplating why there were only five Platonic solids -- the cube, tetrahedron, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. They then began visualizing what these shapes might look like in the fourth dimension. At the age of 15, Prof. COXETER won a school prize for an English essay on how to project these geometric shapes into higher dimensions -- he called it "Dimensional Analogy."
Prof. COXETER's father took his son along with his essay to meet friend and fellow pacifist Bertrand RUSSELL. Mr. RUSSELL recommended Prof. COXETER to mathematician E.H. NEVILLE, a scout, of sorts, for mathematics prodigies. He was impressed by Prof. COXETER's work but appalled by some inexcusable gaps in his mathematical knowledge. Prof. NEVILLE arranged for private tutelage in pursuit of a scholarship at Cambridge. During this period, Prof. COXETER was forbidden from thinking in the fourth dimension, except on Sundays.
He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1926 and was among five students handpicked by Ludwig WITTGENSTEIN for his philosophy of mathematics class. During his first year at Cambridge, at the age of 19, he discovered a new regular polyhedron that had six hexagonal faces at each vertex.
After graduating with first-class honours in 1929, he received his doctorate under H. F. BAKER in 1931, winning the coveted Smith's Prize for his thesis.
Prof. COXETER did fellowship stints back and forth between Princeton and Cambridge for the next few years, focusing on the mathematics of kaleidoscopes -- he had mirrors specially cut and hinged together and carried them in velvet pouches sewn by his mother. By 1933, he had enumerated the n-dimensional kaleidoscopes -- that is, kaleidoscopes operating up to any number of dimensions.
The concepts that became known as COXETER groups are the complex algebraic equations he developed to express how many images may be seen of any object in a kaleidoscope (he once used a paper triangle with the word "nonsense" printed on it to track reflections).
In 1936, Prof. COXETER was offered an assistant professorship at the University of Toronto. He made the move shortly after the sudden death of his father and following his marriage to Rien BROUWER. She was from the Netherlnds and he met her while she was on holiday in London.
As a professor, Prof. COXETER was known to flout set curriculum. Ed BARBEAU, now a professor at the U of T, recalled that at the start of his classes, Prof. COXETER would spread out a manuscript on the desks at the front of the room. During his lecture, he would often pause for minutes at a time to make notes when a student offered something that might be relevant to his work in progress. When the work was later published, students were pleasantly surprised to find that their suggestions had been duly credited.
Prof. COXETER was also known to show up to class carrying a pineapple, or a giant sunflower from his garden, demonstrating the existence of geometric principles in nature. And he was notorious for leaping over details, expecting students to fill in the rest.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's resident intellectual, Lister SINCLAIR, was one of Prof. COXETER's earliest students. He once recounted that Prof. COXETER would "write an expression on the board and you could see it talking to him. It was like Michelangelo walking around a block of marble and seeing what's in there."
Asia Ivic WEISS, a professor at York University, Prof. COXETER's last PhD student and the only woman so honoured, describes an incident that perfectly exemplifies Prof. COXETER's math myopia. Going into labour with her first child, she called him to cancel their weekly meeting. Prof. COXETER, who never acknowledged her pregnancy, said not to worry, he would send over a stack of research to keep her busy when she got home from the hospital.
Despite several offers from other universities, Prof. COXETER stayed at University of Toronto throughout his career.
Like his father, he was a pacifist. In 1997, he was among those who marched a petition to the university president's office to protest against an honorary degree being conferred on George BUSH Sr. Prof. COXETER recalled with disdain Robert PRITCHARD's telling him, "Donald, I have more important things to worry about."
After his official retirement in 1977, Prof. COXETER continued as a professor emeritus, making weekly visits to his office. These subsided only in the past several months. On the weekend before his death, he finished revisions on his final paper, which he had delivered the previous summer in Budapest.
In his last five years, he survived a heart attack, a broken hip (he sprung himself from the hospital early to drive to a geometry conference in Wisconsin) and, most recently, prostate cancer.
Considering his 96 years of vegetarianism and a strict exercise regime, he felt betrayed by his body. "I feel like the man of Thermopylae who doesn't do anything properly," he commented recently after an awkward evening out, quoting nonsense poet Edward LEAR.
Prof. COXETER died in his home, with three long last breaths, just before bed on the last day of March.
His brain is now undergoing study at McMaster University, along with that of Albert EINSTEIN. Neuroscientist Sandra WITELSON is tryng to determine whether his brain's extraordinary capacities are associated with its structure.
Prof. COXETER met with her at the beginning of March and learned that the atypical elements of Einstein's brain, compared with an average brain, were symmetrical on both right and left sides.
Prof. WITELSON said she wondered whether there might be similar findings with Prof. COXETER's brain. "Isn't that nice," he said. "I suppose that would indicate all my interest in symmetry was well founded."
Prof. COXETER leaves his daughter Susan and son Edgar. His wife died in 1999.
Siobhan ROBERTS is a Toronto writer whose biography of Donald COXETER will be published by Penguin in 2005.

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NEVILLE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-08-06 published
Linda STEARNS: 1937-2003
As ballet mistress and artistic director of the esteemed Montreal company, she nurtured personality, flair and a risk-taking approach to dance
By Paula CITRON Wednesday, August 6, 2003 - Page R5
In the cutthroat, competitive world of dance, Linda STEARNS was an anomaly. As artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, she never played games or held grudges. Whether good or bad news, she bluntly told her dancers what they had to hear, and in return, her open-door policy allowed them to vent their own feelings. National Ballet of Canada artistic director James KUDELKA, who spent almost a decade as a member of Les Grands Ballets, likens her approach to wearing an invisible raincoat upon which unhappy dancers spewed their venom. At the end of their tirades, she would serenely remove the garment and say, "Now let's talk."
Linda STEARNS died at her home in Toronto on July 4, at age 65.
She was born into privilege on October 22, 1937. Her father, Marshal, was an investment broker; her mother, Helen, was heavily involved in charity work. The family lived in the posh Poplar Plains area of central Toronto, where Ms. STEARNS attended Branksome Hall.
Despite their wealth, the STEARNS children (Linda, Nora and Marshal) were expected to earn their own livings. Helen STEARNS had studied dance in her youth, but a career was never an option. When eldest daughter Linda showed a strong talent, history might have repeated itself had not Marshal Sr. set aside his reservations after seeing his daughter perform.
After graduating from high school, Ms. STEARNS went to London and New York for advanced training. It was the great Alexandra Danilova, one of Ms. STEARNS's New York teachers, who pointed the young dancer in the direction of the upstart Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Ms. STEARNS joined Les Grands in 1961, and was promoted to soloist in 1964. In a Who's Who of Entertainment entry, Ms. STEARNS was once listed as joining the company in 1861, and she liked to joke that, at 103 years, she held the record for the longest time spent in the corps de ballet. In fact, one of Ms. STEARNS's hallmarks was her sense of humour, much of it at her own expense.
Les Grands was known for taking dancers who did not necessarily have perfect ballet bodies, but had personality and flair, a policy Ms. STEARNS continued during her own administration.
Although Ms. STEARNS had very unballetic, low-arched feet, she was a fine classical dancer. She excelled, however, in the dramatic repertoire: Mother Courage in Richard Kuch's The Brood, or the title role in Brydon Paige's Medea. In later years, while teaching and coaching, Ms. STEARNS wore high heels to conceal her hated low arches -- while showing off her attractive ankles.
Her performing career was cut short in 1966 when artistic director Ludmilla CHIRIAEFF recognized that Ms. STEARNS would make a brilliant ballet mistress, and by 1969, Ms. STEARNS was exclusively in the studio. In fact, giving up performing was one of the great disappointments of her life, although she did in time acknowledge that she had found her true destiny. Ms. STEARNS's astonishingly keen eye allowed her to single out, in a corps de ballet of moving bodies, every limb that was out of position. She could also sing every piece of music, which saved a lot of time, because she didn't have to keep putting on the tape recorder. Because of her intense musicality, Ms. STEARNS also insisted that the dancers not just be on the count, but fill every note with movement.
Ms. STEARNS loved playing with words -- she was a crossword-puzzle addict, for example -- and gave the dancers nicknames, whether they liked them or not. Catherine LAFORTUNE was Katrink, Kathy BIEVER was Little Frog, Rosemary NEVILLE was Rosie Posie, Betsy BARON was Boops, and Benjamin HATCHER was Benjamino, to name but a few. One who escaped this fate was Gioconda BARBUTO, simply because Ms. STEARNS loved rolling out the word "G-I-O-C-O-N-D-A" in its full Italian glory. The dancers, in turn, called her Lulubelle, Mme. Gozonga and La Stearnova or, if they were feeling tired, cranky and hostile -- and were out of earshot -- Spoons (for her non-arched feet) and even less flattering names. As reluctantly as she became ballet mistress, Ms. STEARNS became artistic director, first as one of a triumvirate in 1978 with Danny JACKSON and Colin McINTYRE (when Les Grands and Brian MacDONALD came to an abrupt parting of the ways;) then with Jeanne RENAUD in 1985 and finally on her own in 1987. She retired from Les Grands in 1989. Both Mr. JACKSON and Mr. McINTRYE still refer to Ms. STEARNS as the company's backbone.
These were the famous creative years that included the works of Mr. KUDELKA, Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, Nacho Duato and George Balanchine. Les Grands toured the world performing one of the most exciting and eclectic repertoires in ballet. It was a company that nurtured dancers and choreographers, many of whom reflected Ms. STEARNS's risk-taking, innovative esthetic.
She also had time to mentor choreographers outside the company, including acclaimed solo artist Margie GILLIS. Her post-Grands career included writing assessments for the Canada Council, setting works on ballet companies, coaching figure skating, and most recently, becoming ballet mistress for the Toronto-based Ballet Jörgen. When she was diagnosed with both ovarian and breast cancer two years ago, she continued her obligations to Ballet Jörgen until she was no longer able, never letting the dancers know how ill she was.
Ms. STEARNS loved huge dogs -- or what Ms. GILLIS refers to as mountains with fur -- and always had at least two. Her gardens were magnificent, as was her cooking. Her generosity was legendary, whether inviting 20 people for Christmas dinner, or hosting the wedding reception for dancers Andrea BOARDMAN and Jean-Hugues ROCHETTE at her tastefully decorated Westmount home. After leaving Montreal, whether, first, at her horse farm in Harrow, Ontario, or at the one-room schoolhouse she lovingly renovated near Campbellville, northwest of Toronto, former colleagues were always welcome.
She continued to keep in touch with her dancers, sending notes in her beautiful, distinctive handwriting. Her love of sports never left her, and after a hard day in the studio, she would relax watching the hockey game. Religion also filled her postdance life, with Toronto's Anglican Grace-Church-on-the-Hill at its epicentre. Ms. STEARNS was very discreet in her private life, although another disappointment is that neither of two long relationships resulted in marriage or children.
Ms. STEARNS was always ruthlessly self-critical, always striving for perfection, never convinced she had rehearsed a work to its full potential. As a result, she never made herself the centre of her own story. Her homes, for example, did not contain photographs glorifying the career of Linda STEARNS. Only at the end of her days, as she faced death with the same grace with which she had faced life, was she finally able to appreciate how many lives she had touched, and accept her outstanding achievements with Les Grands Ballets. Linde HOWE- BECK, former dance critic for the Montreal Gazette, sums up Ms. STEARNS perfectly when she says that she was all about love -- for her Friends and family, for life, but most of all, for dance.
Paula CITRON is dance critic for The Globe and Mail.

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NEVILLE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-09-20 published
NEVILLE, David - Born 31 October 1916 in Toronto. Eldest son of James and Marjorie Law EAKINS. Lt. Commander Fleet Air Arm, Overseas Manager Africa, India, Far East. Retired Franklin, Vermont, U.S.A. Died 12 September 2003 in Montreal

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NEVILLE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-16 published
Father figure to the Canadian stage
British-trained Stratford character actor never craved starring roles
By Allison LAWLOR, Special to The Globe and Mail, Thursday, October 16, 2003 - Page R11
For Mervyn " Butch" BLAKE, entering a theatre was a magical experience, something he never tired of during an acting career that spanned close to three-quarters of a century. Mr. BLAKE, one of the most loved members of the Stratford Festival Company, died on October 9 at a Toronto nursing home after a long illness. He was 95.
"Theatre seems to give me life," Mr. BLAKE said in 1994. "I just feel marvellous when I enter the theatre... it's one of the things which keeps me going."
Over his long stage life that included 42 consecutive seasons with the Stratford Festival of Canada, Mr. BLAKE "had the distinction of playing in every single play of Shakespeare's," said Richard MONETTE, Stratford's artistic director.
"He had a great life in the theatre," Mr. MONETTE said.
Adored by both audiences and fellow actors, the veteran actor was known across Canada for his enormous talent and generosity of spirit. When he wasn't working at Stratford, he acted on the country's major stages and in television and film.
For seven seasons, he toured with the Canadian Players, bringing professional theatre to smaller towns. And in 1987, he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for best performance in a featured role in a production of Saturday, Sunday, Monday at what was then called CentreStage (now CanStage).
"Everyone loved Butch without exception," said John NEVILLE, a former Stratford's artistic director.
Mervyn BLAKE was born on November 30, 1907, in Dehra Dun, India, where his father was a railway executive.
His father wanted him to become an engineer but after falling in love with the theatre, Mr. BLAKE was able to persuade his father to allow him to study at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1932, he graduated and soon made his professional stage debut at the Embassy Theatre in London
During the Second World War, he served in the British Army as a driver. It was during the war years that he is said to have got his nickname Butch. A witness to the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Mr. BLAKE was present at the liberation of the camp by British troops. It was an experience that haunted him for the rest of his life.
At the war's end, he returned to England and to the stage. He married actress Christine BENNETT and spent the years between 1952 and 1955 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. There he worked with many of the great British actors such as Sir Laurence OLIVIER, Sir Michael REDGRAVE and Dame Peggy ASHCROFT.
Despite his success on the British stage, he decided to join the Stratford Festival of Canada, then in its fifth season. With his family in tow, Mr. BLAKE moved to Canada and in 1957 appeared in a production of Hamlet with Christopher PLUMMER in the title role.
"He wasn't a leading actor," said actor and director Douglas CAMPBELL. "He was a supporting player. As a supporting player you couldn't get better."
Mr. BLAKE always saw himself as a character actor who never cared that much about starring roles, said Audrey ASHLEY, a former Ottawa Citizen theatre critic and author of Mr. BLAKE's 1999 biography With Love from Butch.
"He was one of those actors you never had to worry about," Ms. ASHLEY said. "You knew Butch was always going to do a good job."
Known for his unfailing good nature and even temper, he enjoyed re-telling gaffes he had made on stage. Mr. MONETTE remembers one performance where Mr. BLAKE appeared on stage as the Sea Captain in Twelfth Night. The character Viola asks him, "What country, Friends, is this?" And instead of responding "This is Illyria, lady." Out of his mouth popped, "This is Orillia."
To the younger actors at Stratford, Mr. BLAKE was a father figure. "He was very fond of the young actors and would take them under his wing," Ms. ASHLEY said.
Stephen RUSSELL remembers arriving at Stratford for his first season in the mid-1970s. He was placed in the same dressing room as Mr. BLAKE, an experience he still holds close to his heart.
"He was one of the most generous human beings," Mr. RUSSELL said.
One of the areas Mr. BLAKE was most helpful in was teaching fellow actors how to apply stage makeup. He loved makeup and on his dressing-room table he had an old rabbit's foot that he would use to apply his face powder, Mr. RUSSELL said.
Aging didn't stop him from applying his own elaborate makeup. Playing the role of old Adam in As You Like It required him to go through the same makeup ritual when he was 70 years old as it did when he performed the role years earlier as a much younger man.
Aside from the stage, one of Mr. BLAKE's passions was cricket. During his first season in Stratford, he played on the festival's team and was responsible for starting a friendly, annual cricket match against the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Each season, members of the two acting companies would come together for a civilized afternoon of cricket and tea. The Stratford team still goes by the name of Blake's Blokes.
In honour of his talent and dedication to the theatre, Mr. BLAKE was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in May, 1995.
"When he entered, the stage just lit up," Mr. RUSSELL said.
Mr. BLAKE leaves his wife Christine BENNETT; children Andrew and Bridget; and stepson Tim DAVISSON.
Details of a memorial service to be held in Stratford, Ontario, have yet to be announced.

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NEVILLE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-17 published
A true hero of Canadian science
Professor who won 1994 Nobel Prize didn't think his work was very important but had to change his mind after he got award
By Allison LAWLOR, Special to The Globe and Mail Friday, October 17, 2003 - Page R13
Canadian physicist Bertram BROCKHOUSE once likened winning the Nobel Prize to winning the Stanley Cup.
Dr. BROCKHOUSE, who shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1994 for his work developing a technique to measure the atomic structure of matter, died on Monday in a Hamilton hospital. He was 85.
After the prize announcement, the visibly abashed emeritus professor of physics at McMaster University told reporters in Hamilton that when the Swedish Academy of Science telephoned him at 6: 45 a.m. his reaction was "enormous astonishment."
"It came as a complete surprise," he said. "I would have otherwise been dressed and ready."
He said at the time he was unaware he had been nominated.
Aside from his own personal achievement, Dr. BROCKHOUSE is the only Canadian Nobel laureate who was born, educated and completed his life's work in this country.
Dr. BROCKHOUSE shared his Nobel prize with Clifford SHULL, a former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who died in 2001 at the age of 85. They were honoured for research conducted at the first nuclear reactors in Canada and the United States as early as the 1940s and 1950s.
In announcing the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy said "Clifford SHULL helped answer the question of where atoms 'are' and Bertram N. BROCKHOUSE the question of what atoms 'do.'
Much of Dr. BROCKHOUSE's award-winning work was carried on at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, a facility operated by what is now called Atomic Energy of Canada, where he was a researcher from 1950 until 1962. The original Chalk River reactor, located 190 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, drew curious scientists from around the globe in the 1950s. Dr. BROCKHOUSE used the neutron beams from the nuclear reactors to probe materials at the atomic level. Using a device he built for his research, known as the triple-axis neutron spectrometer, he is recognized for improving the understanding of the way neutrons bounce off atomic nuclei.
His triple-axis neutron spectrometer is still used around the world and parts of the original device he built are still at Chalk River, said Dr. Bruce GAULIN, who holds the Brockhouse Chair in the physics of materials at McMaster.
Dr. BROCKHOUSE worked with simple materials like aluminum and steel. Today the technique he developed, known as neutron scattering, is used in widely differing areas such as the study of superconductors, elastic properties of polymers and virus structure.
Scientists had previously relied on radiation from devices like X-rays to look at the atomic structure of matter. "He is a heroic figure," Dr. GAULIN said.
Described as competitive in his scientific endeavours, Dr. BROCKHOUSE didn't want to miss a single minute. A colleague at Chalk River once asked him why he worked so hard. "Every minute of every day is unique," he replied. "And once that minute is gone, it is lost forever."
While he had little spare time during his years at Chalk River, he did use opportunities to take part in a number of amateur dramatic productions, including three operettas. A great lover of music, particularly for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Dr. BROCKHOUSE was known for loudly singing excerpts while working on experiments.
Bertram Neville BROCKHOUSE was born on July 15, 1918, in Lethbridge, Alberta. "My first memories are of a farm near Milk River where I lived with my mother and father and my sister, Alice Evelyn, and a variety of farm and domestic animals," he wrote in an autobiographical sketch for the academy.
His parents Israel Bertram BROCKHOUSE and Mable Emily (NEVILLE) BROCKHOUSE had two other children. One son died in infancy and another went on to become a railroad civil engineer. The family moved to Vancouver while Dr. BROCKHOUSE was still a young boy. He completed high school in 1935 and instead of going to university went to work as a laboratory assistant and then as a radio repairman. When the Second World War came along he used his radio skills as an electronics technician in the Royal Canadian Navy. He spent some months at sea, but most of his war years were spent servicing sonar equipment at a shore base.
After the war, he returned to Vancouver to attend university at the University of British Columbia. He later went to the University of Toronto where he completed his PhD in 1950 with a lofty thesis entitled "The Effect of Stress and Temperature upon the Magnetic Properties of Ferromagnetic Materials".
In 1962, Dr. BROCKHOUSE joined the department of physics at McMaster University and remained there until his retirement in 1984. He and his wife Doris raised their six children in Ancaster, a small community outside Hamilton, in a house they occupied for close to 40 years.
At the university, Dr. BROCKHOUSE was highly regarded as a professor known for having high expectations of his students and for most often being deep in thought.
"You had the sense you were in the presence of an unusual person," said Dr. Tom TIMUSK, an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at McMaster.
Dr. TIMUSK, who shared an office with Dr. BROCKHOUSE at McMaster for some time, said his colleague jokingly told students after he won the Nobel Prize that he didn't think his work was very important but that had to change his mind after he got the award.
"I think he genuinely believed that what he did was good work, but not so important," Dr. GAULIN said.
Dr. BROCKHOUSE likened himself to an explorer who woke up on any given morning not knowing exactly what he was going to do, except follow some vague instinct about what should be explored next.
He also liked to say that scientists were really just mapmakers with a greater eye for detail. "The metaphor that I think of is that of the atlas you're all familiar with. What we work on in basic science is just a bigger atlas, with places and objects and so on that are not as familiar."
Dr. BROCKHOUSE leaves his wife, children Ann, Gordon, Ian, Beth, Charles and James, and 10 grandchildren.

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