Hard Times in Peterborough: Peter Wylie Takes on Small Town Big Business

Trent University, 2011. Suzanne Schroeter, Wikimedia Commons

David M. K. Sheinin

In 1997, the Peterborough real estate developer AON, Inc. settled out of court libel suits against the Peterborough Examiner newspaper, local television station CHEX-TV, and Trent University Economics professor Peter Wylie. As a function of the settlements, each respondent apologized unreservedly to AON. At issue was an accusation by Wylie that AON and the City of Peterborough had colluded on a contract to build a downtown parking structure. The Peterborough Examiner and CHEX-TV told the story to the public. According to a thirty-year veteran of CHEX-TV, nobody at the station can remember another occasion on which the lead news anchor has issued an on-air apology. In steamrolling its opponents, AON made clear that further legal wrangling would cost the respondents dearly, and for years to come. Run out of town on a rail, Wylie lit out for British Columbia.

The clash between the powerful real estate corporation and the Trent University professor (with local media as collateral) capped two decades of rapid change in Peterborough. In the 1960s, Peterborough had been a booming industrial city shaped by high-tech industries like Canadian General Electric (CGE) and tool-and-die manufacturer Fisher-Gauge. But by 1990, Outboard Marine, which once employed 2,000 people, and several other industrial plants, had closed. The 80-acre CGE site employed a tenth of those working there three decades earlier. General Motors (Oshawa) now ranked as the county’s largest employer followed closely by Trent University. Through two decades of deindustrialization, AON had overtaken traditional heavy industrial concerns as the most powerful business voice in the city—demonstrated publicly in its apology demands. Meanwhile, in its tepid support of Peter Wylie, Trent University—once a hotbed of 1960s political and cultural dissent—had settled into a more staid identity as a respectable corporate member of the Peterborough community. In the case against Peter Wylie, both AON and Trent University put their stamp on the city. Continue reading

History Slam 199: The Making of a Museum

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By Sean Graham

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Judith Nasby, former Director of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre/Art Gallery of Guelph and author of The Making of a Museum. We discuss the gallery’s style (1:51), the challenges facing smaller museums (5:21), and how a dedicated space changed the gallery’s prospects (14:12). We then chat about the gallery’s relationship with the university (17:02), writing memoir as history (23:00), and what advice Judith would give to anyone wanting to work in museums (25:24).

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With Intent to Destroy a Group: Genocides Past and Present in Canada

Andrew Woolford

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Dylan Hall are MA Students in the Department of History, Classics, & Religion at the University of Alberta. They interviewed Dr. Andrew Woolford as a part of the department’s annual Western Canadian History Lecture. Crystal Gail Fraser and Shannon Stunden Bower edited the transcribed interview for length and clarity. Andrew Woolford is a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Manitoba. He is also an emeritus member of the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars and former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

If you are a Survivor of Indian Residential Schools and need support, please call the National Indian Residential School Crisis line at 1-866-925-4419 or text 686868. You can also call the Canadian Mental Health Association toll free at 1-833-456-4566 (in Quebec 1-866-277-3553) or visit crisisservicescanada.ca. Other self-care acts include taking a walk, calling or texting a friend, nourishing your body with a snack, and openly showing your emotions.

Chris: In 2021, the news of thousands of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential School sites has forced a national conversation about settler colonialism’s destruction of Indigenous Peoples’ lands and cultures. Why were you drawn to the field of genocide studies?

Andrew: When I began my master’s degree, I was interested in Latin American human rights issues. I traveled to Chiapas, Mexico and was learning Spanish to become a human rights observer in the Lacandon Jungle after the Zapatista Uprising. Simultaneously, I heard news from home about the British Columbia Treaty Process. I realized that I was in Mexico trying to support Indigenous Peoples when I knew so little about Indigenous Peoples in Canada, particularly on Vancouver Island where I grew up.

I interviewed Coast Salish Elders and Leaders for my PhD research on the BC Treaty Process and they often said, “Well, first we have to tell you about the genocide.” For example, in Tsawwassan I learned how the road to the BC ferry terminal destroyed their last longhouse and with the coal port decimated local shellfish populations. At the time, I was TA-ing a course on genocide studies, which was my first introduction to this field. These two intellectual pursuits – Indigenous histories and genocide studies – made me think, “What has been said about genocide in Canada and why do we seldom discuss it? Whose power is reflected within the conceptual architecture of genocide?” Continue reading

History Slam 198: Atacama

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By Sean Graham

In the 10 years that we’ve been doing the History Slam Podcast, I’ve learned that there is no correct way to tell historical stories. Over the years we’ve talked with playwrights, musicians, and literary authors about the ways in which they tell accurate (and moving) stories from the past within their respective media. One of my favourites to discover over the years has been the incredible depth of historical fiction in Canada, where authors have been able to tell stories that have otherwise been underrepresented in the more traditional historical literature.

One such example comes in the form of Atacama: A Novel, by Carmen Rodriguez. It tells the story of two 12-year-olds in Chile in the early 20th century, brought together at a time when workers’ rights and collective action around the world were changing the face of Chilean life. Together they forge a lifelong connection through their opposition and resistance to the autocratic regime and repressive military. Based in part on Rodriguez’s own family history, Atacama combines archival research, oral history, and artistic license to tell a captivating tale that spans over 20 years. The violence imposed by the government is starkly contrasted by the optimism of youth, combining to tell a story that is much more optimistic than one would guess at first sight.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Carmen Rodriguez about the book. We discuss the benefits of telling historical stories through fiction, the challenge of having more historical context than the characters, and her personal history with Chilean political resistance. We also chat about the book’s message of hope, the contributions of Chilean immigrants in Canada, and the universal themes present in the book.

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History Slam Special: Best of 2021

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By Sean Graham

Before we put 2021 to bed later tonight, I wanted to look back at some of the great conversations we’ve had on the History Slam this year. The past 12 months have not been the easiest for anyone, but I’ve been so energized by the discussions, insights, and expertise that has been part of the show. So in this special edition, we re-visit a few of the great guests from 2021:

You can find the full catalogue of 197 episodes under the podcast tab or wherever you get your podcasts. Happy New Year and all the best for 2022!

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A Peace Resembling War

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W. George Lovell

December 29, 2021, marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of a peace accord that, under the auspices of the United Nations, brought a formal end to thirty-six years of armed conflict in Guatemala. At the time the accord was signed, Guatemala’s was Latin America’s most prolonged internal strife, during which acts of genocide occurred. A quarter-century on the peace that was supposed to be firm and lasting is anything but. If peace prevails in Guatemala, it is a peace resembling war.

Anthropologist Victoria Sanford sums up the situation thus: if the number of victims keeps rising, she predicted, “more people will die in the first twenty-five years of peace” than during the country’s brutal civil war, which a U.N. inquiry documented at over 200,000. More than 80 percent of casualties were unarmed Indigenous Mayas, hence the charge of genocide levelled against the Guatemalan army, held responsible for 93 percent of the killings. To guerrilla insurgents fighting to overthrow a heinous regime could be attributed three percent of recorded atrocities.

Sanford’s grim reckoning is borne out by Guatemalan homicide rates. Continue reading

Science as Vocation and Life

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By Dimitry Zakharov

Gerhard Herzberg was a man of science. His life revolved around his office, where he spent countless hours, often working six days a week going over spectrograms, interpreting and writing results, and familiarizing himself with the latest research in his own field and quantum physics in general.

Spectroscopy and the scientists involved in this field were his first family. In his short 1985 memoir, published in the Annual Review of Physical Chemistry, Herzberg recollects the moment in 1929 when he married Luise Oettinger, who co-authored several papers with him, and mentions the birth of his two children, Paul and Agnes, when they lived in Saskatoon.[i] The focus of this memoir, however, was spectroscopic research and the people who contributed to this discipline – scientists like Alex Douglas and Walter Heitler, and the affirmation of their work by Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, whom Herzberg met in England. Despite conventional ideas about individual genius, which still persists in the form of breakthroughs attributed to the ideas of a single person, Herzberg’s work attests to the importance of the scientific community and the collaborators who often play a far larger role than they are given credit for.

Science as a Community

Gerhard Herzberg’s intellectual history is a complicated subject. He was trained as a theoretical physicist at Darmstadt and then Göttingen, the best physics university of the time. Perhaps only the Cambridge system with its Wrangler system could have matched it in terms of prestige and sheer physico-mathematical importance. In the Cambridge mathematics program, the first place Senior Wrangler exemplified an achievement of the university itself, and this classification system went down to the lowest final passing grade of the year, accompanied by the dubious title of Wet Spoon.[ii] As historian of science Iwan Rhys Morus has argued, English and German universities of the 19th century had different models of education. While English universities favored mathematical and empirical science, German universities encouraged a Buildung model, favoring a holistic or balanced approach that encompassed scientific disciplines, as well as the arts, history, philosophy, literature, and music.

This model produced some of the best scientists of the time and didn’t ignore creating a balanced individual.[iii] Morus argues that the German educational model produced more theoretically minded scientists than their English counterparts. Herzberg, a product of this system, specialized in the sciences, but was also well versed in music and philosophy.[iv] What’s more, he formed scientific communities wherever he went. Herzberg was a brilliant experimentalist, an equally brilliant theoretician, and he also possessed an aura of charisma that gathered other great minds around him wherever he went. Continue reading

Physics in Exile: Nazism, Anti-Semitism, and the 1933 Scientific Exodus

By Dimitry Zakharov

In September, 1935, physicists Gerhard and Luise Herzberg arrived in Saskatoon, Canada. This move was a leap of faith, as they had only learned of the small prairie city’s existence shortly before their journey, and secured a university position due to a chance friendship with the University of Saskatchewan chemistry professor John Spinks, and a generous grant from the Carnegie Foundation which aimed at helping German scholars. While Saskatchewan was not previously known to the Herzbergs, available faculty positions in universities outside of Germany were already scarce. Many postings in England and North America were already filled by academics and scientists who left as soon as the Nazi party passed a law forbidding Jews and other non-Aryans from working in public sector jobs like universities.

Several months prior to his arrival, Herzberg had received news from the Carnegie Foundation that he qualified for funding of a two-year tenure appointment in a British Dominion or Commonwealth university. His first choice in Canada was the University of Toronto, which already had a spectroscopy laboratory led by British/ Canadian physicist Sir John Cunningham McLennan. However, the University of Toronto already made an offer for its available faculty position to a German mathematician, Bernard Haurwitz from Leipzig. After more communication with chemist John Spinks and University of Saskatchewan President Walter Murray, Herzberg accepted their offer on April 2nd, 1935. On September 1st, the Herzbergs arrived by ship in New York, and left by train for their new home, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

An NSDAP poster dated February 27, 1925 advertising a meeting in Munich where Adolf Hitler will address the party. The poster reads “Germany’s future and our movement” and announces the re-establishment of the party. Image courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

What caused the exodus of German scholars, the Herzbergs among them? What made staying in Germany too dangerous for Luise and Gerhard and for a number of other notable scientists, doctors, and others?

The Rise of Fascism in Europe

In October, 1922, Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party successfully seized power in the Kingdom of Italy and Mussolini was named Prime Minister by King Victor Emmanuel III. This was the first successful fascist insurrection in Europe as ultra-nationalist movements and political parties began to appear across the continent. On November 8th, 1923, Adolf Hitler and about 600 of his Sturmabteilung (SA) soldiers stormed the Bürgerbräukeller Beer Hall in the Bavarian city of Munich. While their attempt to start a revolution against the local Bavarian government failed, it was a sign of things to come. Hitler himself was incarcerated for the attempted coup and sentenced to serve five years. While in prison, he wrote many of his most extreme and anti-Semitic works, eventually published as Mein Kampf.

Meanwhile, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NASDAP), or Nazi Party, continued to gain support across Germany and Austria. In 1924, Hitler was pardoned and released. That year, the NASDAP gained 6.5% of the popular vote and 32 seats in the Weimar Reichstag parliament during a general election. The Nazis and Hitler continued to build political power throughout the 1920s, and by 1932, the NASDAP held the majority of seats in the Reichstag. That year, Herman Goering, one of Hitler’s closest allies, was elected President of the Reichstag, and in 1933, German president Paul von Hindenberg appointed Hitler to be chancellor. With the passage of the Enabling Act in 1933, the NASDAP gained control of parliament, consolidated Nazi control over Germany and gave Hitler near-absolute powers to impose laws and policy.[1] The Nazis continued to use violence and coercion to gain power, but their rise to political control happened through democratic elections and popular support – it was a democratically elected dictatorship.

A Brief History of Anti-Semitism in Europe

While extremist and nationalist movements appeared in Germany quickly after the First World War, discrimination against Jews existed across Europe for centuries. As far back as the Middle Ages, Jewish communities through Europe were targets of religious and ethnic violence. These discriminatory attitudes and ideas became embedded in 19th-century pseudo-scientific ideas about race and evolution, which intersected with ideas of nationhood and racial purity. Disciplines like phrenology, which emerged in the late 1700s and purported to link cranial and facial features to personality characteristics like empathy and intelligence, became instrumental in establishing racial hierarchies that characterized the Caucasian ‘races’ (namely Western European peoples of Germany, France, and England) as the most ‘evolved’ and ‘civilized.’

In the 19th century, political and national histories of the Germanic peoples began to appear with the work of historians like Leopold von Ranke. There were also striking and popular national epics like the mid-19th century opera Der Ring des Nibelungen by composer Richard Wagner (himself a noted anti-Semite). During the early 20th century, Nazi historians Gerhard Ritter and Friedrich Meinecke expanded the mythology of the Aryan race, which they argued was the most evolved and purest of all the Caucasian ‘races.’ Hitler sought to link Aryan history to great ancient conquerors like Alexander the Great.

In the context of late-19th and early 20th-century science and politics, eugenics – a term coined in 1833 by the English mathematician and geneticist Francis Galton (1822-1911) — became intertwined with bigoted and racist understandings of what constituted a ‘good breeding stock’ of humans. Eugenics provided a justification for discrimination against ethnic minorities and lower economic classes by positioning them as ‘mentally deficient’ or ‘feeble-minded.’ This belief was by no means limited to Europe. The United States, in fact, was the first country to implement eugenic laws, when Indiana adopted eugenic sterilization. In 1910, the U.S. also established the Eugenic Records Office, which amassed over a million records of individuals by 1935.  Hitler seized on eugenics and transformed these ideas into ideologies, which described Jews as a parasite invading and destroying Aryan cultures. These pseudo-scientific ideas about race and racial purity blended with older anti-Jewish religious beliefs to produce the extreme anti-semitism that gripped Germany in the 1930s. While eugenics, anti-Semitism, and racial nationalism coalesced within the Nazi ideology of Aryan purity, these undercurrents pre-dated Hitler’s climb to power.

Gerhard Herzberg’s University Years

At the beginning of the Nazis’ drive to power, Gerhard Herzberg in 1924 enrolled in the Theoretical Physics program at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt. Boris Stoicheff, one of Herzberg’s National Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellows and his primary biographer,[2] notes that this was a difficult time for Herzberg, he had few friends on campus and found far more comfort in his studies and in the weekly hikes in the nearby Odenwald and Neckar valleys. Even though the name “Herzberg” was of German-Aryan origin, and the Herzberg family name could be traced back centuries through Lutheran church records in the central-German town of Lagensalza,[3] it was phonetically close to the German-Jewish last-name “Hertzberg.” Herzberg believed this linguistic similarity was enough to exclude him from much of campus student life, which was comprised of campus fraternities or Korps that had become breeding grounds for extremist and ultra-nationalist political activity.[4]

The Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, c. 1900.

This was Herzberg’s first notable encounter with anti-Semitism, and it was an early incident that helped to shape his lifelong disdain for far-right nationalism and anti-Jewish sentiments. While studying at Darmstadt, Herzberg maintained contact with his high-school friend Alfred Schulz. The two would exchange letters and often argued about politics. At about the time of the Munich Putsch, Schulz expressed his support for Hitler. In his response letter, Herzberg clearly expressed his disillusionment with Hitler’s attempted coup, and with nationalism in general, even going so far as to quote famous German philosophers like Goethe and Schopenhauer writing,

“…to claim that real culture is only possible with a strong feeling of national identity is disproved by Schiller, Goethe, Lessing, Herder, Kant… Lessing wrote: “Patriotism, a heroic weakness.” Goethe[5] once said to Eckermann something like: “Nationalism is strongest at the lowest level of culture. The higher a culture stands, the more patriotism loses its meaning.” And quoting Schopenhauer:[6] “Every poor soul who has nothing in the world to be proud of seizes as a last resort on being proud of the nation to which he belongs. In doing so he recovers and is now gratefully ready to defend all the shortcomings and blunders that are hers [the nation’s].”[7]

Luise Oettinger, c. 1920s. Image courtesy of the Luise Herzberg Fond, the University of Saskatchewan Archives.

On December 30th, 1929, Gerhard Herzberg married Luise Oettinger, a PhD student in physics at Gottingen University. Herzberg met her there during his one-year post-doctoral fellowship in 1928. Luise was Jewish, which would be a major factor for their emigration in 1935. It didn’t matter that Herzberg came from a long-standing German family, as someone who married a Jewish woman, Herzberg would have been an enemy of the Nazi state as well. Both would have been imprisoned if they stayed in Nazi Germany.

Nationalism, Science, and the University

German universities proved to be central to the Nazis’ program of nationalism and cultural control. Today, post-secondary institutions are often seen as bastions of progressive and egalitarian ideals, but the universities of the German provinces at the beginning of the 20th century were an extension of state power, conservatism, and economic elitism. The sort of campus anti-Semitism that Herzberg experienced in the 1920s was not a new phenomenon. Several decades earlier, in 1893, Rudolf Virchow, often called the father of modern pathology, cell theory, and then chair of Pathological Anatomy at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin stated during a lecture that,

“Our age, which is so sure and victoriously happy in its scientific sentiments… still stands at a loss before the riddle of anti-Semitism, which would seem to have nothing to aim at in this age of equality before the law, and which, in spite of this– perhaps even because of it – has a fascination even for the educated youth. Until now no one has asked for a professorship of anti-Semitism, but it is said that there are already anti-Semitic professors.”[8]

Both Hitler and Mussolini realized that capturing the hearts and minds of youth was crucial for their fascist and Nazi ambitions. Youth clubs and organizations like the Hitlerjugend in Germany and the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio in Italy indoctrinated new generations of youth in fascist ideology for the purpose of preparing them to be leaders in the future fascist states.[ix] Groups like the Nazi Student Association promoted Nazi ideology on universities campuses by organizing parades, book burnings, and boycotts of lectures delivered by Jewish faculty. The idea of creating lists or registries for identifying university employees of Jewish ancestry came from Achim Gercke, a chemistry student, and Hugo Willrich, a professor of history, both at Gottingen University. In 1924, Gercke and Willrich worked on the “Archive for Racial Statistics by Profession” and Gercke himself published numerous booklets with lists of professors of Jewish ancestry, those married to Jews, or those otherwise sympathetic or connected to Jews at the universities of Göttingen, Berlin, Königsberg, and Breslau.[x]

In 1933, as the Nazis consolidated control over Germany, the government enacted a new statute, named “Law for the Restoration of the Career Civil Service,” which removed all non-Aryan employees from civil service.[xi] As the universities in Germany were publicly funded, this law included all non-Aryan faculty. The new law led to the immediate expulsion of some of the greatest minds in science and philosophy: this included Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, James Franck, Max Born, and Niels Bohr. Along with Max Planck (who was German and decided to stay during the Nazi years due to his advanced age; famous for the Planck constant) and Werner Heisenberg (who went on to lead the Nazi atomic bomb project called the Heisenberg device; also famous for the uncertainty principle), this group of scientists effectively founded modern physics. While many German Jews were automatically excluded, James Franck served Germany in the Great War and therefore had an exemption from this work legislation. He was also the first scholar to resign from his university faculty position in protest of the new law.[xii]

Boris Stoicheff, wrote how the mathematician Edmund Landau was “physically prevented from entering his classroom by about seventy of his students, some wearing SS uniforms.” They demanded “German mathematics” instead of “Jewish mathematics.” [xiii] One estimate is that the 15% of scientists in Germany who had been fired accounted for about 60% of the country’s physics-based publications.[xiv] The new law also prohibited women and Jews from practicing medicine, resulting in the expulsion of about 5,000 female doctors and several thousand Jewish doctors. Recent studies have shown that this move alone promptly affected the health of the German people, with heightened infant mortality rates and spikes in previously controlled illnesses like diphtheria.[xv]

Many other scientists and academics were likewise displaced. In the field of philosophy, the three original founders of the “Frankfurt School” of Marxist philosophy, Ernst Block, Max Horkheimer, and Theodore Adorno, all had to flee Germany. Similarly, philosophers like Hannah Arendt, Alfred Schutz, and Peter Burger all eventually found themselves in the United States. Perhaps one of the most telling episodes of this displacement of Jewish academics involved the fate of Edmund Husserl, a mathematician and logician at Freiburg University. He was fired and replaced by his former student and Nazi party member Martin Heidegger, a famous 20th century philosopher. Herzberg, too, had to face the fact that some of his colleagues and friends sided with the Nazi Party. Stoicheff writes of one particular episode when Herzberg was dismayed to find his longtime friend and colleague, Gunter Scheibe, wearing Nazi insignia during a meeting in 1933.[xvi] Indeed, while some academics fled Germany in fear for their lives, many others seized on the opportunity and the bevy of newly available faculty positions at German universities. Seeing this transformation of his homeland and the dangers that this now posed for Luise as well as himself compelled the two to emigrate.


Einstein, Franck, and Bohr immigrated to the U.S. Along with the American physicist Robert Oppenheimer, Franck went on to participate in the Manhattan Project, the top-secret wartime effort to develop a nuclear bomb. Others, like Max Born and Erwin Schrodinger, went to England to take up academic positions at Cambridge and Oxford.

The Herzbergs also had to leave their lives behind. They travelled to Nurnberg to visit Luise’s parents, who had decided to stay in Germany, and then made their way to Hamburg, to visit Gerhard’s brother Walter and his friends Alfred Schulz and Hans-Werner Doring. Their lives had also been changed by the Nazi regime. To leave their homeland was heartbreaking, but the young couple were also leaving family and friends in an increasingly dangerous land. Gerhard and Luise gathered what belongings they could. Carrying the small amount of money they were legally allowed to take out of the country ($2.50), they set sail on the SS Hamburg to North America.

Luise Herzberg and son Paul at the Memorial Gates of the University of Saskatchewan. Image courtesy of the University of Saskatchewan Archives.

Dimitry Zakharov is a PhD Candidate (ABD) in History at the University of Saskatchewan. Funding for the Herzberg50 Commemoration is provided by the Ministry of Canadian Heritage and the National Research Council of Canada.”

Defining Moments Canada is an online Canadian heritage organization dedicated to commemorating ‘definitional moments’ in our shared history through trans-disciplinary education initiatives. This organization has hosted a number of commemorative projects such as Spanish FluVEDay75Juno75and Insulin100. DMC’s approach is informed through Curatorial Thinking and the SASS framework (Selection, Archiving, Sense-Making and Sharing). This process encourages students to critically examine research material and consider their own “position in time and space” in relation to the narratives they study (Mant, 2020), Moreover, with the onset and continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, DMC is advocating for the re-conceptualization of education to promote interdisciplinary or “syndemic” thinking.


[1] Lukacs, J., Knapp,. Wilfrid F., Bullock,. Alan and Bullock,. Baron. “Adolf Hitler.” Encyclopedia Britannica, April 26, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler.

[2] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life In Science, (Ottawa: National Research Council Press, 2002).

[3] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life in Science, (Ottawa: National Research Council Press, 2002): 24.

[4] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg, 24-25.

[5] Famous German writer and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Famous for his late 18th century tragedy Faust.

[6] Arthur Schopenhauer was a famous German philosopher, who denied both Kantian and Hegelian philosophical viewpoints and was one of the biggest influences for Friedrich Nietzsche, another famous German philosopher.

[7] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life in Science, (Ottawa: National Research Council Press, 2002): 27.

[8] Rudolf Virchow, Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow, trans. Lelland J. Rather (Stanford: University Press, 1958): 23-24.

[ix] Alessio Ponzio, Shaping the New Man: Youth Training Regimes in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017).

[x] Robert P. Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany, (Cambridge: University Press, 2012): 74-75.

[xi] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life in Science, (Ottawa: National Research Council Press, 2002): 79.

[xii] Jost Lemmerch, Science and Consciousness: The Life of James Franck, trans. Ann M. Hentschel (Stanford: University Press, 2011): 194-196.

[xiii] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg, 82.

[xiv] Fabian Waldinger, “Bombs, Brains, And Science: The Role Of Human And Physical Capital For The Creation Of Scientific Knowledge,” The Review of Economics and Statistics 98 No. 5 (2016): 811-831.

[xv] Alexa R. Shipman, “The German Experiment: Health care without female or Jewish doctors” International Journal of Women’s Dermatology 1 No. 1 (2015): 108-110.

[xvi] Boris Stoicheff, Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life in Science, (Ottawa: National Research Council Press, 2002): 87.

Dr. Gerhard Herzberg and The Prize

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By Denisa Popa

In Gerhard Herzberg: An Illustrious Life in Science, Boris Stoicheff recalls the amusing way in which Herzberg found out he had received the Nobel Prize. On November 2nd, 1971, as Herzberg was seated on a train waiting to leave Leningrad station, the Secretary of the Soviet Academy of Science ran up to his cabin and informed him he had won the Nobel Prize in Physics.[1] This was well before smartphones, of course, so Herzberg, stuck in this train, had no way to contact his colleagues and family back in Canada. He spent the next six hours by himself on the train wondering why he had won the Nobel Prize in Physics and not Chemistry.[2]

“Gerhard Herzberg, Nobel Award Certificate, Dec. 1971” Dr. Gerhard Herzberg Fond, National Research Council of Canada.

The confusion was cleared up once he arrived and learned that the award was, indeed, for chemistry. Herzberg’s memorable experience was not the last time a Nobel laureate found out they’d won the prize while stuck in transit. In 1991, Richard Ernst found out he won, for chemistry, while on an airplane traveling from Moscow to New York.[3] As he recalls in this video, the captain came to his seat mid-flight to personally inform him of the news. Ernst recounts going to the plane’s cockpit to call his family.[4]

Herzberg’s Nobel journey began in 1958, Continue reading

Scientific Freedom and “the Golden Years”: Gerhard Herzberg and the National Research Council of Canada

Denisa Popa

From 1948 until his retirement in 1994, Dr. Gerhard Herzberg conducted ground-breaking research at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). As his close friend and biographer Boris Stoicheff has noted, Herzberg’s early period at the NRC– culminating in his Nobel win in 1971 — were truly “the golden years” of his career.[1] Recognizing the essential nature of his work, the NRC offered him the time, resources and freedom to pursue any research of his choosing. (The NRC’s intellectual environment was challenged during Herzberg’s later years.) This latitude contrasted the constraints he’d faced previously at the Yerkes Observatory in Chicago from 1945 to 1948. Indeed, this episode further highlights the vital role that Canadian institutions played in Herzberg’s scientific work.[2]

“Gerhard Herzberg in lab coat at blackboard” Dr. Gerhard Herzberg Fond, National Research Council of Canada.

Yerkes Observatory: University of Chicago

When Herzberg first arrived in Canada, he spent 10 productive and enjoyable years as a professor at the University of Saskatchewan. But in 1945, Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago offered him a job. At first, this opportunity seemed like “the ideal situation” for Herzberg as he would join a larger institution connected closely to U.S. universities.[3] As Stoicheff notes, it would enable him “to become an astronomer, a career he had dreamt of long ago.”[4] Yet even while he was negotiating the job offer, difficulties began to crop up. The university could only hire him as an associate professor, a step down from his position in Saskatchewan. Nevertheless, Herzberg accepted the position, and set out for Williams Bay with his family.

The intellectual focus of the Yerkes Observatory differed greatly from Saskatchewan. Continue reading