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Henry Marshall Tory

First President, University of Alberta, 1908-1929; First President, National Research Council, 1928-1935; First President, Carleton College, 1942-1947.

By R. W. Boyle

An old French proverb says, "Ideals without action are a vain mirage," which is not so different from St. James", " . . . . faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." Dr. H. M. Tory throughout his life dispelled all illusion and mirage; idealist always, he based strong actions on underlying, cherished, and closely guarded ideals. His personality was dynamic, with a driving optimism and energy, not sparing even himself; undoubtedly he sprang from the "Celtic fringe" and shared its sacred fire.

The genealogy of the Tory (or Torrey) families of North America is interesting, and too long for inclusion here. The Torrey Families and their Children of America was compiled by Prof. F. C. Torrey of an American college and published privately in Lakehurst, N.J. (Vol. 1 in 1924 and Vol.2 in 1939.)

Henry Marshall Tory was born on January 11, 1864, on a farm near Guysboro, N.S., being the great-grandson of James Tory, who had been a soldier of the 71st Scottish Regiment fighting in the American Revolutionary war, and who, after a period as prisoner of war, received at the close of the campaign, a grant of land near Guysboro. Tory's early education was imposed from the outside, the choice of studies depended more on the judgment of the teacher and the aptitude of the pupil. A plenitude of farm work with his studies was seasoned with the usual healthy activities of the country, fishing, sailing, snow-shoeing and skating. His family moved into the town of Guysboro about the time his primary schooling was finished and there Tory found his first job, as a clerk in the dry goods store.

Undoubtedly Tory was constantly encouraged towards further education by his mother, daughter of a neighbouring family and a very remarkable woman, and though he clerked for three years, his ambition for further education was not dimmed. He attended Guysboro Academy, then spent two years teaching in nearby rural schools, thus entering a profession which he followed all his life, and acquiring experience that probably whetted his desire for college and higher training.

At this stage occurred one of the most fortunate events of Tory's life, viz., a meeting with Sir William Dawson, then Principal of McGill University. Dawson was a man of strong character and vivid personality, an outstanding geologist; and a meeting with him on one of Dawson"s summer trips to Nova Scotia brought Tory to his notice and under his advice and influence; a consequence was that Tory decided for McGill University (his mother had originally wanted him to go to Mt. Allison University for Arts and Theology.) At the age of 22, Tory registered for an Honours in Mathematics and Physics, and graduated in 1890 with Honours B.A. and gold medal. His record shows him to have been a good student, but not the college book-worm type. In his undergraduate days he was keen and outstanding in the debating society, was an officer in the College Y.M.C.A., leader of a Bible Class in one of the large city churches, and was class orator of his graduating year.

When he could, he played the athletic games of his youth, and he helped in the formation of the McGill Rifle and the Western Club.

Tory's family influence and his personal bent for religious thought and endeavour remained strong throughout his college career, and after graduating he continued his study of theology at the Wesleyan College, Montreal, affiliated with McGill. In due course he received the B.D. degree, and undertook a preaching charge in a city church for two years. However, he returned to his mathematics and physics studies and teaching, became a Lecturer in Mathematics at McGill in 1893, and took the M.A. degree (Mathematics) in 1896. To assist in the new Department of Physics, housed in the elaborate new Macdonald Physics Building, he spent two terms at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University, England, where the celebrated J. J. Thomson was then Professor. This experience enabled Tory to help Professor Hugh Callender, first Macdonald Research Professor of Physics at McGill, and Professor John Cox, Macdonald Professor and Director of the Physics Building, in the installation of extensive equipment and organization of laboratory courses. He became Demonstrator of Physics while continuing to lecture in Mathematics, and received the D.Sc. degree in 1903. He was promoted to the Associate Professorship of Mathematics in the same year.

In that year, 1893, at 29 years of age, he married Annie Gertrude Frost of Knowlton, Quebec. This union was a very happy one, there were no children, but the Tory home ever extended a bright and warm hospitality to colleagues of the McGill staff and many of the students. Later in his career when Tory became President of the University of Alberta, Mrs. Tory played the part of the ideal hostess, the President"s house becoming a centre, for staff and many students, of stimulating social and cultural enjoyment. In Ottawa again the President"s house was a cheerful and intellectual centre for many of the N.R.C. staff and visitors from almost everywhere. The happy union of Dr. and Mrs. Tory lasted until her death in 1938.

In Tory's student and early McGill staff years he was undoubtedly inspired and influenced by three of the outstanding personalities of McGill of that day. We have already mentioned Dawson, the Principal, who remained Tory"s firm friend until Dawson"s death; there was Clark Murray, Professor of Moral Philosophy, who taught Tory his formal philosophy and no doubt fed fuel to a philosophical flair within him; and also Alexander (ÒPatÓ) Johnson, Professor of Mathematics and Dean of the Arts Faculty, a Òwise and witty IrishmanÓ from Trinity College, Dublin. And another fine friendship of Tory"s should be cited, beginning in 1898; in that year Callendar resigned from the Research Professorship of Physics to go to the Imperial College, London, and a young man of twenty-eight, Ernest Rutherford from New Zealand and the Cavendish Laboratory, was appointed in his place. This young man laid the foundation of a great research career in his nine years at McGill, and later in England became the celebrated Lord Rutherford, Nobel prizeman, propounder of the Nuclear Theory of the Atoms of Matter, and originator of all subsequent work on Atomic Disruption, which led to the atomic bomb. Tory, six years his senior, and Rutherford were compatible, helped one another and became close friends, and maintained this friendship throughout their lives, though their careers were cast very far apart.

At the beginning of this century Tory was officially Associate Professor of Mathematics in the McGill Faculty of Arts, but in addition he played a great part as unofficial adviser to Dean Johnson on student affairs, and was really, though not so named, sub- or assistant-Dean. When "Pat" was succeeded in the Deanship by Dr. Charles Moyse, Tory continued the same role, and as a result became a sort of special ambassador of McGill throughout Canada. He possessed the special talents of a wise and friendly diplomat, together with the human quality and astuteness to comprehend basic factors governing the evolution of institutions and events. At this time McGill was considering the establishment of branch junior colleges in Canada and Newfoundland; Tory was despatched on missions to appraise the possibilities and, where necessary, conduct negotiations; the McGill University College of British Columbia was established in 1906 as a direct result of his mission. This college functioned as a branch college of McGill until May 1915, when it was absorbed in the newly created University of British Columbia.

In 1905 the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were carved out of the Northwest Territories by the Federal administration of Sir Wilfred Laurier, and the provincial governments so formed decided to establish their own universities. In 1907 the first Alberta Government founded its university and selected Dr. Tory as President. Undoubtedly his success in British Columbia and the contacts and knowledge of the West thus acquired, were important factors to prompt this choice. He arrived in Edmonton, in the spring of 1908, and found that a splendid estate of 258 acres was suggested for the university, on the south bank of the Saskatchewan River, in the western section of the town of Strathcona, across the river from the capital. His task was to erect a modern university in this wheat field and bush. "He had to buy a farm and people it with colleges!" An interesting picture of the early days and of Tory"s enthusiasm is given by Dr. E. K. Broadus, the first Professor of English. "In June 1908, the President of a University not yet in being, in a Province I had never heard of, in a country I had never visited, came to Harvard and offered me the Professorship of English. The offer sounded like midsummer madness! I think that what I accepted was not the position or the salary, but the man! . . . In September of that year I found him ensconced in the attic of a small brick public school building. There assembled the four of us. We were to constitute the Faculty, veritable "philosophes sous les toits"; and he, and we, and it, were for the nonce the University of Alberta." Undoubtedly many a young man, professor, lecturer, instructor, demonstrator, came to the new University with the same or kindred thoughts, but all inspired by the enthusiasm of the man who had selected them.

The university opened its doors in September, 1908, with one Faculty, 5 professors and 32 students; it gave its first few degrees in May, 1912. When Tory left the University, May, 1928, it had five faculties with their subsidiary schools, about 1,600 students, working, and some of them residing, in seven or eight modern well equipped buildings. The fine group of structures which will adorn this splendid university site is not yet complete, but Tory saw that a fundamental architectural plan was devised to be followed as the years went by. The student body now numbers over 4,000; its graduates have done well in war and peace; many of them rest "in Flanders Field" and other hallowed places.

Great War I, 1914-1918, was so wide-spread in its incidence, and so threatening in its consequences, that Tory"s ardent spirit could not be satisfied with ordinary university routine duties at home; he was noticeably restless to serve more directly and intensively, and eventually his opportunity came. In 1916 he had been requested to prepare a Special Report on the Discharged Men from the Army for the National Council of the Y.M.C.A. Undoubtedly this report was a prime reason for the later invitation to draw up a plan and organize regular study courses for Canadian soldiers in England. On this plan (1917) was founded an Educational Section of the Army, unique in its purposes, later known as the "Khaki College." In January 1918 Tory arrived in England to be President of this novel enterprise, which became the forerunner of kindred projects for education in the military forces of many nations. The Khaki College was timely, for in the trying, restless, demobilization period of 1918-1919, it aided greatly as a steadying and disciplinary influence to many men besides helping to make up time in their education. This College lasted just less than two years, during which about 50,000 men took courses and about a thousand of them received educational credit for a year of regular college work.

The return to his university position, autumn 1919, was the end of a unique interlude in Tory's career. The war had left a lasting impression upon him of the great value of scientific pursuits in a nation; he became tireless in his advocacy that universities, governments, industrial firms and societies should all realize the great importance of scientific discovery, of practical application of scientific devices, and of general guidance by the scientific method. He convinced the Government of Alberta, and helped them found the Alberta Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, becoming its first Chairman.

Tory assisted the Government of Alberta as consultant in many matters, and was also called on by other provinces and by the Dominion. In 1913 he was the Alberta representative on an American Commission for the Study of Agricultural Credits and travelled on the Commission's enquiries throughout Europe. The data assembled became useful again later on Tory's becoming a single Commissioner to advise the Dominion Minister of Finance on the same subject. He was a prime mover in organizing the National Conference of Canadian Universities, and helped to promote the League of Nations Society throughout Canada. In addition he served on the Executive Committee of the British Empire Universities' Bureau, the Imperial Education Committee, and the Canadian Commission of Conservation.

A pointed example for all British Dominions was the Act of the British Government, 1915, while Great War I was raging, to found a Council and Department for Scientific and Industrial Research (D.S.I.R.). The Canadian Government followed suit in 1916. For eight years this Council functioned as a Board only, allotting its voted funds to researches in the universities and for bursaries and scholarships. It had no established laboratories and its annual vote from the Government had not reached more than $120,000. At an important meeting, the 21st, Feb. 1923, when the Council was considering what would be necessary to establish a National Research Institute with Laboratories, and recommended an expenditure of $600,000 to purchase a site and erect a building, Tory was nominated to be a Council member; two weeks later he was appointed by Order-in-Council, and took his seat at the spring meeting. This appointment was timely and fortunate, for Tory brought to the Council a great experience, with imagination, zeal and vigour.

There was no immediate action by the Government to erect laboratories, and in the face of this disappointment, Tory urged a movement, more vigorous still, to demonstrate the advantages of scientific research by attacking some great national problems, the solution of which Canada needed; and he further urged full organ-ization of these researches on a national scale. His influence in the Council was immediate and effective; Dr. Frank Adams, Vice-Principal of McGill, who had been acting as temporary administrative chairman of the Council, decided to follow his personal desire and resign, thus opening the way for Tory to assume direction of the Council's activities. The Council thereupon nominated him as Adams' Successor, and he was named temporary Chairman of the Council by Order-in-Council, in October, 1923. Early in 1924 he submitted to the Council the draft of a revised National Research Council Act, which after full discussion by all authorities concerned was passed by Parliament in July of that year. This new act provided authority for enlarged scope of the Council with the establishment of a habitat and central laboratories.

Tory, as Chairman, organized Committees of the Council, with many other specialists serving on them, to attack national problems. Soon there were working committees, supervising researches supported by Council funds, on great subjects important in the national interest, such as wheat rust, other plant diseases, refractories, aeronautics, foods, fuels, tuberculosis (animal and human), and others; and money grants were increased for specific researches in the universities, and for bursaries and scholarships to train young research workers. Senior Directors supported by junior researchers were appointed to the Laboratories' staff which grew gradually, and were organized into the natural divisions of Science; viz., Biology, Chemistry, Engineering and Physics. Tory enlisted support from technical branches of federal and provincial governments whenever and wherever their work was related, combining the services of all in co-operative endeavours. In a striking personal effort, he continued throughout the Dominion, as an evangelist of science, the work which he had begun in the west; he made speeches and gave reports to conventions, annual meetings, Canadian and Service clubs, and boards of trade, always promoting the idea that governments, industries and the public generally should liberally support research for their own and the nation's benefit, not only the application of scientific devices but also the employment of scientific method in industrial and public affairs, and not neglecting the social and cultural benefit so derived. Undoubtedly his work aroused and considerably advanced the public opinion. In 1927 the Government of the day decided to establish National Research Laboratories at Ottawa, and later, as from June 1, 1928, appointed Tory to become the first President of the Council and Chief Executive Officer. He came to Ottawa to live in May 1928, then 64 years of age. Immediately under his direction began the planning of the great laboratories, now internationally well known. Contracts for the erection of the main buildings were concluded in December 1929, and work of erection was begun two months later. The main building, an adornment to the national capital, was officially opened as a chief event of the British Commonwealth Conference (the Ottawa Conference) of 1932.

It has often been truly said that it was a stroke of good fortune that at the beginning of the Great Depression (1930-35) there was a man of such amazing energy, great imagination and faith behind an effort to erect a Temple of Science for Canada; and it is probably true that many a man, not necessarily weak, might have lacked the great faith and vigour required in the face of many difficulties, and in consequence have allowed the great task to lapse for many years. These National Research Laboratories at Ottawa and other places have been greatly expanded as a consequence of Great War II; but it can be stressed that it was most fortunate for Canada that they were in operation when war broke out; and the great initiator and founder, who displayed the clearest foresight and vision into the future was H. M. Tory. He served as President of the Council through the harrowing years of the Depression until the expiration of his term in June, 1935. Perhaps it was the Research Council and its Laboratories which drew from him his greatest effort and determination in spite of the great impediments of the period; to him more than to any other man are due the foundations and works of the National Research Council.

While he lived in Ottawa, as in the West, Tory was called upon often for public service, acting on boards and commissions of enquiry into various subjects. He was chairman of the Commission on the Fruit Industry of Nova Scotia 1930; organized the Fifth Pacific Science Congress, held in Canada in 1933, and served as its President (he had been a Canadian representative to a previous Congress in Japan in 1926) ; served on the Coal Classification Committee until 1935; and was a single Royal Commissioner on Coal, in the City of Montreal in 1936. He continued his activity in the League of Nations Society of Canada, serving on its executive and, in 1938, becoming its President. He retained that office for five years, through the trying prewar years and early difficult period of Great War II; later he served as the first Honorary Treasurer of the Canadian Committee on Refugees.

Tory's last years were intended to be spent "in retirement", writing books and essays; but he gave these years to one more new institution of education, namely, Carleton College of Ottawa. This college originated in the ideas and discussions of some public spirited Ottawans. Previous to Great War II a committee of Y.W.C.A. members and others had discussed the inadequate facilities for certain types of higher education in the capital, and with the outbreak of the war in 1939 the need grew more acute, because thousands of young men and women, with education interrupted by the war, were coming to the capital to work in the military services, and in the government offices and laboratories. Tory was invited to join a group of men to find means for a practical solution of this important problem, and in 1942 a Board of Governors and a Faculty to give two years of college work were established. Once started Tory never looked back; he was appointed by the Board the first President at age 79, and all his tremendous educational experience, his knowledge, his energy, he gave devotedly and without stint. The college began in borrowed buildings with 35 instructors lecturing in the evening to 700 students, only a few of whom intended to continue their studies to a degree. At the time of Tory's death, Feb. 6th, 1947, the college had 78 instructors, lecturing in day and evening classes to an enrollment of 1,500 students, most of whom were pressing towards a degree. At the present time third year work is offered, the first permanent building has been purchased, and a subscription campaign for funds is in progress to provide for this building with an extension, at an estimated cost of $500,000.

Some of his friends at times wistfully indulge a wish that Dr. Tory had spared a little more time and effort for his autobiography, even at the cost of a little less for Carleton College. He had planned this autobiography, in fact had begun it, but gave his whole strength to the new college with the result that the autobiography never saw the light. And he had so much to write about, covering the great period of Canadian development which his life spanned. His experience stretched from extreme east through the centre to the extreme west of Canada; he knew virtually all the leaders of governments, education, science, literature, finance and industry over all the country and through three decades; perhaps no other Canadian had the tale to tell which he could have told. This autobiography never saw the light, but Carleton College has risen to remain a last monument of the courage, energy and vision of this indomitable man.

No one who knew H. M. Tory could ever forget his sense of humour, his great capacity for amusement and enjoyment, and his innate kindness. Because of this humour and kindness he was all the wiser in his judgment of people and affairs. A sense of humour is a sense of proportion; and being a keen scientific analyst, he was no dogmatist, but saw into men and events with an understanding sympathy which went very far. He was specially gifted with imagination and with unlimited enthusiasm for the good cause which inspired it. His ability in orderly reasoning combined with his judgment of men made him exceptionally able in organization. Very human himself, he loved human companionship; and since he possessed the special faculty of inspiring others, his leadership was always natural and very able and conspicuous.

He had no children of his own, but loved young people everywhere, and it was very appropriate that he lived his long life always in close contact with youth. It is said of some men that "they grow old gracefully"; Tory hardly grew old at all! He was a crusader against anything yielding to the ignoble and the ignorant, and often put passion and emotion in his appeals; but at times he could be very cool and calm; at times could "blaze with indignation", yet when necessary be adept in "the soft answer which turneth away wrath." He had an illustrious career, and while maintaining throughout a just pride and self-esteem remained humble, reserving a quiet amusement tinged perhaps with contempt for the "swelled head" or the "stuffed shirt." He was offered and received many honours, by universities, societies and governments; but he declined.

The character and qualities of H. M. Tory determined what his life and work should be, and Canada offered the opportunities to this great patriot. His country, which he loved passionately, owes him a great debt which only the distant future can properly appraise. He seemed always to be drawn to the initiation of new movements and new institutions, and found thus a greater intellectual and spiritual satisfaction than mere operation of already going concerns. Time and again this writer has heard him exclaim, "I am a pioneer." This is precisely true; and in this pioneering, his life's score, including as it does The McGill College of British Columbia, The University of Alberta, The Khaki College of Great War I, The Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta, The Federal National Research Laboratories, and after "retirement" The Carleton College of Ottawa, constitutes a tremendous monument. We cannot tell what the future will unfold; perhaps posterity will decide that The University of Alberta and the National Research Laboratories were his greatest foundations; but through all the years, it will be agreed by all that the above constitutes veritably an impressive and monumental list.

It is precisely true that H. M. Tory was a man of his times and exactly suited to his period of Canadian history. Teacher, preacher, philosopher, man of action, he was nevertheless a conspicuous scientist. Without leaving treatises or formal scientific contributions in papers or memoirs on specific researches he was a great missionary and evangelist of research, and contributed greatly to the adaptation of science to his country's needs. Without leaving any formal dissertation of philosophy he was a philosopher of education and without serving in any legislative hall he became Canadian statesman-at-large for both Science and Education. He was Initiator and Organizer of Institutions designed to last for all time; instinctively, as it were, he thus pursued his happiness. All his efforts were fundamental preparations to render fruitful a soil to yield intellectual and spiritual harvests forever. "His is a life, not of the world apart, But of the very fire of Earth itself, Hewing new paths in human History, Bending the course of History itself."

—W. S. McDonald, Alberta Graduate, Sc. –15

Published October 1947.

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