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1949: Science and Higher Education

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On Saturday, October 8, Walter Palmer Thompson was installed as the University’s third President.  Educated at the University of Toronto and Harvard, Thompson had come to the University of Saskatchewan as professor and head of the Biology Department in 1913.  He had served in a variety of administrative positions: Dean of Junior Colleges (1934); Dean of Arts and Sciences (1938); Acting President (1942); and Director of Summer School (1948). 1

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With Thompson's appointment as President, all three prairie universities and a growing number of other universities now had presidents who were scientists and who had replaced humanists in those positions. For his installation address, Thompson decided to discuss "the chief cause of the trend": "the growing prestige of science and its increasing importance in higher occasion." He concluded: "There was never greater need for co-operation between humanists and scientists and for sympathetic understanding of each other's problems and difficulties, limitations and advantages, achievements and failures. Some fields of science cannot be left to those who are ignorant of human relations or disdainful of the efforts of their colleagues in humanities and social studies. Nor can human affairs be left entirely to those who are ignorant or disdainful of science."2

Upon his retirement as President, Thompson was appointed Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Medical Care. The recommendations of this committee were an important foundation for the provincial medicare system. Thompson was awarded the Order of Canada and received honourary degrees from several universities. He died in Toronto in 1970.

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Related Collections

W.P. Thompson fonds, MG 17.


1949a: W.P. Thompson.  Photograph Collection, A-7191.
1949b: Convocation Address, 1949.
1949c: Green and White, 1949.
1949d: Campus–Aerial Layout, [ca. 1945].  Photograph Collection, A-6382.


1. Guide to Holdings.
2. "Science and Higher Education," Convocation Address, 1949.

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