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A recent history of academic analytical chemistry.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Volume 2, Page 404, "Before WW II analytical chemistry research was done only at the Universities of Alberta and Toronto."

At Alberta the one individual was O.J. Walker. He published sporadically, averaging one paper about every second year. He studied the effects of trace elements; the relation of iodine to goiter is an example. PhDs were not offered at Alberta. At Toronto the one doing analytical research was F. Beamish. He was on staff there for 40 years, beginning in 1929. He carried out important work involving the platinum metals. Beamish published over 150 papers and has been described as a tireless researcher. The real centre for Canada's academic analytical research was in his hands and he was highly respected and influential.

During the great depression and WW II there was little opportunity for expansion of staff and initiation of new programmes. To the best of my knowledge the first nonToronto PhDs directed by analytical staff outside of Toronto graduated in 1961 (Alfio Corsini, MCIC from McMaster, under R. Graham, and G. Lutwick from Alberta, under Harris).

Post WW II Decade

Immediately following WW II university enrollments tripled in a short few years, and there was a scramble for staff to instruct the veterans and those entering university from high school. The disruptions of the war meant few new PhD chemists in any field, but in analytical chemistry the shortage was particularly acute. A complicating factor was that the few analytical candidates were also actively pursued by industry and government. In Canada, Beamish was the sole supplier for some time. Beamish's first PhDs graduated just at the end of the war, not in analytical but in physical chemistry (W.A.E. McBryde, personal communication). A mysterious attitude prevailed at that time. In the US, I.M. Kolthoff was undoubtedly the premier academic researcher in analytical chemistry. Yet I am one of the few who obtained an analytical PhD under his direction: all the rest were physical chemistry PhDs.

Most of the midsize and larger universities in Canada did find and appoint one analytical PhD even though the demand from universities, government, and industry was high and the supply low. Many analytical staff appointed during this period had- earned their advanced degrees outside the country. The following come to mind: G. Cave (MIT), McGill; C.L. Chakrabarti, FCIC (Belfast), Carleton; R. Graham (Columbia), MeMaster; W.E. Harris, FCIC (Minnesota), Alberta; W.A.E. McBryde, HFCIC (Virginia), Waterloo; J. Page (Harvard), Queens; and D. Ryan (Imperial College), Dalhousie. McBryde and Page were on the Toronto staff during the 1950s.

The Time of Destruction

The most unhealthy decade for analytical chemistry began in the mid-50s. In many universities, physical, inorganic, or even organic chemists had been dragooned into teaching analytical for their department. When students are taught by those not interested in or doing scholarly work in the subject, the results are predictable. It became the fashion in the States and Canada followed the lead, to 'integrate' analytical chemistry into other courses in such a way as to eliminate distinct instruction in the field. At the University of Minnesota, for example, which was the world's leading centre for analytical, the department decided it would strengthen itself by getting rid of the analytical division. At Toronto, with an unequaled analytical presence in Canada, similar actions were taken. At MIT, a strong center for analytical, the same kind of steps were also taken.

During this period, everything about the teaching of analytical was under siege - when to teach it, who should teach it, what to teach, and even how to do it. Of course questioning should be continuous but should be applicable to all divisions of chemistry.

Starting about 1960, university enrolments increased steadily for about 15 years. During this time, the number of staff in chemistry departments expanded by leaps and bounds, undergraduate teaching loads in many universities decreased, research activities increased sharply, and many offered the PhD for the first time. Nevertheless, the number of analytical staff increased but little. The period of active destruction was followed by one of a failure to make appropriate analytical appointments. The usual single analytical member of a department was outnumbered, often demoralized, had outsize workloads, and usually was unable to persuade his colleagues of the needs. With respect to analytical chemists, most chemistry departments simply let this 15-year window of opportunity pass by. Theory was in ascendance.

The granting agency of the time, the National Research Council of Canada, did not list analytical chemistry as a separate division. At meetings of the grant selection committees, analytical chemists were largely 'taken care of by others, since there was rarely an analytical appointee. The first analytical chemist from Alberta on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council chemistry grant selection committee was not appointed until 1988! One grant selection committee member commented a few years ago that for staff of equivalent productivity, grants for analytical staff were typically half of those of colleagues in other divisions.

The 1969 Symposium

Without question, in my mind, the most important single event in our recent history was the "Symposium on the Teaching of Analytical Chemistry" organized by R. Zienius and held at Loyola immediately following the 1969 CIC conference. The list of registrants included 48 from universities, industry, and government. (Interestingly, no registrants were from the Universities of Toronto, Western, or Guelph).

In some ways, the symposium was a council of war. It was later described as a meeting with a 'spirited and refreshing interchange of information'. A number of position papers were presented. During the early-60s, I had been attempting to obtain objective data on the when, who, what, and how questions about the teaching of analytical, and the findings were presented at the symposium. Most of the material was later published in Analytical Chemistry, 42, 43A-62A (1970).

The 1969 landmark symposium was followed by two more of a similar nature in 1972 and 1977, which helped to set the stage for modest growth and consolidation during about the last decade. It is of interest that three from Toronto and one from UWO were listed as attending the 1977 symposium.

It is fitting that this symposium on the future of analytical chemistry is held on the 20th anniversary of the symposium at Loyola.

The Last Decade

During the last decade, university enrolments have once again trended upward. The numbers of new academic staff appointments have not kept pace with the increased student numbers, except in analytical. In analytical chemistry, most of those departments that had no analytical chemists at all on staff began to make such appointments.

The following data have been obtained from the 1977 and 1987 editions of the American Chemical Society's Directory of Graduate Research. In both years, there were 24 Canadian departments of chemistry listed. In 1977, only 12 of the 24 had one or more staff who listed themselves as analytical chemists, in 1987 there were 23. In 1977, five departments had the critical minimum of three or more analytical chemists; in 1987, 11 of the 24 departments had at least this critical minimum number. The momentum is at least in the right direction. In the 1977, edition several listed themselves as hyphenated analytical chemists (for example, bioanalytical). In 1987 there were no longer any hyphenated analytical staff. Evidently, all now had the self-confidence to list themselves simply as analytical'. Table 1 summarizes the numbers of staff who classified themselves as analytical chemists in the five geographic regions in 1977 and 1987.

Table 2 shows the staffing profiles of the 20 largest departments of chemistry. If comparisons with the other three areas of chemistry are fair, it is clear that there should be continuing expansion of analytical staff throughout all regions of Canada. Virtually all of these departments have the critical minimum of three or more staff in the inorganic, organic, and physical divisions and most have eight or more staff in organic and physical chemistry.

The data have been examined on a regional basis for all 24 chemistry departments listed. Table 3 shows the numbers of departments in each of the five geographic regions with the critical minimum of three or more staff in each of the four divisions of chemistry. It can be seen once again from this table that analytical chemistry has a considerable building job to complete to come into line with the other divisions.

The focus in this presentation has been solely on academic analytical chemists. While it is clear that a serious imbalance exists in the numbers of staff in the four chemistry divisions in Canadian universities, this imbalance is even more striking if membership statistics are examined from The Chemical Institute of Canada. According to Canadian Chemical News/L' Actualitg chimique canadienne (see Jan89, p.41), the divisional memberships are analytical 878, organic 564, physical 364, and inorganic 266.

Analytical chemists are now needed more than ever to help in the public interpretation of modern analytical information. An analytical revolution has been occurring since about 1950 in which detection limits have been improved by about a thousand fold every 10 to 15 years. This has created a crisis in public understanding concerning the significance of finding minute traces of a host of substances in our food, our water, and in the environment generally. It is now possible to detect almost anything in almost everything that is examined with the best of analytical techniques. The academic base for the production of future analytical chemists should be expanded in the next decade so that most of the 20 largest departments have at least five members who call themselves analytical chemists, and several should have eight or more. The demand for competent analytical chemists continues to remain high as it was decades ago. Since the 1969, Loyola symposium much has been accomplished ... much is yet to be done.
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Title Annotation:analytical chemistry research in Canada
Author:Harris, W.E.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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