Fonds MG 2050 - David Landsborough Thomson Fonds

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David Landsborough Thomson Fonds

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CA MUA MG 2050

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  • 1922-1963 (Creation)
    Thomson, David Landsborough, 1901-1964

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Physical description

2.1 m of textual records
24 photographs

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Biographical history

Scientist and university administrator David Thomson was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. He received his B.Sc. and M.A. from Aberdeen University and his Ph.D. from Cambridge in 1928. After a period of postgraduate study on the continent, he came to McGill in 1928 as a lecturer in biochemistry. He was appointed as full Professor in 1937 and was named Gilman Cheney Professor in 1947. In 1941, Thomson became Chairman of the Biochemistry Department and in 1942, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. From 1955 until the tragic concussion that forced his retirement in 1962, Thomson served as McGill's Vice-Principal. Thomson's research work centred on endocrinology and metabolism. He was consultant to the Federal government on questions of nutrition, and was heavily involved with both learned bodies and inter-university organizations. A man of wide reading and ready wit, he was also a sought-after public speaker and radio broadcaster on topics both scientific and literary. He passed away in 1964.

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Scope and content

Fonds documents Thomson's research, his consultations with government, and his involvement in learned societies and university associations. As well, a significant percentage of the material is of a nonprofessional and private nature, focussing on Thomson as a public speaker.

Papers devoted to research consist of 18 cm of background notes, summaries and extracts on nutrition, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, and vitamins. Approximately .6 m of card indexes contain summaries of Thomson's professional reading in the 1920s and 1930s. For the 1940s and 1950s, the papers deal mainly with consulting. They consist of correspondence and reports for the Defence Department (1942- 1946), the Canadian Council on Nutrition (1946-1955) and the Canadian Council on Dietary Standards (1950-1957). Nutrition and research in this field are also the subjects of correspondence with the Royal Society, the Medical Research Council, and the Canada Council during this period. Thomson's work as a university teacher is documented by lecture outlines and examination question papers. His administrative positions led to his involvement in the National Council of Canadian Universities. These correspondence files (1946-1949) deal with academic exchange, scholarships, travel funds and conferences.

Speaking engagements are recorded by correspondence (1953-1954) and in drafts for speeches delivered between 1950 and 1961. Only a few of these discuss scientific topics; most discuss the nature of education, the relation of science to society, and of science to literature. There are also book reviews and background files of quotations and humorous poetry. Correspondence files, which Thomson generated as the Chairman of the Nutrition Committee of the Montréal Council of Social Agencies, are also found here (1939-1944).

Financial affairs, personal purchases and charities, travel expenses, and publications (particularly his Life of the Cell) dominate the private papers (1925-1963). There are also correspondence files maintained by Thomson's secretary during his last illness.

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  • English

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Material in English.

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Associated materials

For Thomson's files as Vice-Principal, see Administrative Records, Record Group 3, and for those created as Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, see Record Group 36.

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Alternative identifier(s)


56, 223, 380, 382, 1132, 1419, 2049, 87-112

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