by Ruth Fawcett
NUCLEAR PURSUITS is the scientific biography of Wilfrid Bennett Lewis, the physicist who dominated nuclear research and the development of nuclear power in Canada for nearly three decades, from the end of World War II until his retirement in 1973. The development of the CANDU reactor was his most stunning achievement.
Born in England in 1908, Lewis earned a doctorate at Cavendish Laboratory in 1934 and continued his research on nuclear physics there until 1939. During the war he worked on the development of radar and in 1945 became chief superintendent of the Telecommunications Research Establishement at Malvern. A year later he agreed to head Canada's fledgling nuclear research facility at Chalk River, Ontario, where he made his professional home for the next twenty-seven years.
Lewis's drive, intelligence, and remarkable organizational skills placed him at the forefront of Canada's nuclear program. Convinced that nuclear energy could be used economically for generating electricity, Lewis fostered a collaboration between Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Ontario Hydro that led to the development of the CANDU reactor. CANDU has proven to be an efficient reactor whose performance compares very favourably with all other power reactors around the world. Lewis's efforts in developing this design, and his effective support of a strong tradition of basic reasearch, are his most important legacies. Under his guidance, scientists at AECL achieved excellence in a number of fields and the laboratories have maintained those standards to the present.
Though not every project he promoted came to fruition, in particular the Intense Neutron Generator, and he seemed never to recognize the political aspects of the nuclear energy program, Lewis's influence on the development of science, technology, and industry in Canada and abroad was unique and profound. His story sheds new light on Canada's postwar science history, debates concerning national science policy, and growing international scientific collaborations. NUCLEAR PURSUITS will be of interest to a wide audience, including scientists, engineers, historians of science and industry, and students of postwar Canadian history.
"The life and career of W.B. Lewis is very much a part of the history of science during an exciting age ... The biography is interesting, easy to read, and instructive to the younger generation of scientists and engineers."
Ruth Fawcett is a Research Officer in the Research Branch of the Library of Parliament.
240 pp 6 x 9 Illustrated
Originally posted by Eric Fawcett, Sun, 20 Aug 1995 23:23:21
|1908 June 24||Born Castle Carrock, Cumberland, England|
|Education||Clare House School|
|1930-39||Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. Worked on alpha radioactivity with Lord Rutherford. Worked on nuclear disintegration by particles accelerated by high voltage and on the construction and operation of the Cambridge cyclotron|
|1939-46||On loan to the British Air Ministry. At end of the war was Chief Superintendent of the Telecommunications Research Establishment.|
|1945||Fellow of the Royal Society (London)|
|1946||Appointed Director, Division of Atomic Energy Research, NRC at Chalk River|
|1952||On formation of Atomic Energy of Canada became Vice-President, Research and Development
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
|1955-64||Director of the American Nuclear Society (President 1961-62)|
|1963||Appointed Senior Vice-president (Science) of AECL|
|1966||First recipient Outstanding Achievement Award of the Public Service of Canada|
|1967||U.S.Atoms for Peace Award|
|1968||Companion of the Order of Canada|
|1971||Honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University|
|1972||Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London|
|1973||Retired from AECL. Appointed Distinguished Professor of Science, Queen's University|
|1981||U.S. Department of Energy Enrico Fermi Award|
|1987 Jan 10||Died in Deep River, Ontario|
An additional article, from the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is reprinted here from the CNA 1983 Nuclear Canada Yearbook (3.6 MB pdf).
The Royal Society of Canada biography of W.B. Lewis is located here (180 kB pdf).
The University of Saskatchewan conferred an honourary degree of Doctor of Science upon W.B. Lewis in 1964. This was one of many honourary degrees and awards he received.
[Canadian Nuclear Society home page]