823 students in labCarleton University’s Chemistry Department is fairly young, when compared to many other institutions. It essentially dates from 1947, five years after the university was established and the year that Dr. John M. Morton was appointed as the first full-time professor in chemistry. Prior to that a few chemistry courses had been given, but only by part-time sessional lecturers. Dr. Morton served as chairman of the fledgling department until 1956, and remained in the department until his retirement in 1971.

A year after Dr. Morton’s appointment, the Department’s second faculty member, Dr. James M. Holmes, was hired. This was probably the most significant appointment in the history of the Department. Dr. Holmes succeeded Dr. Morton as Chairman in 1956, at the age of 37, and remained Chairman until 1973. His seventeen years of chairmanship is by far the longest period served by any chairman and it was during that period that the crucial growth and development of the Department occurred.

During Dr. Holmes’s tenure, the move from the First Avenue building in the Glebe to the present campus occurred, the Steacie Chemistry Building was built and occupied, and the general philosophy of the Department was established. This philosophy was two-fold: firstly, to focus attention on excellence in undergraduate teaching, and, secondly, to cover as wide an area of chemistry as possible, rather than to focus intensively on a few narrow areas. Dr. Holmes was also present as the research and graduate studies activities of the department took off and he witnessed the first Ph.D. degree being awarded in 1969. Today the Department has grown, from the small one-person department Dr. Holmes had joined, to a department which consists of 20 faculty members, 10 technical staff and 2 administrators.

Departmental Chairs

Since 1970, the position of Chair of the Chemistry Department has been a rotating one. Those who have served in this capacity since the beginning of the Department are as follows:

  • John M. Morton 1947 – 1956
  • James M. Holmes 1956 – 1973
  • John W. ApSimon 1973 – 1976
  • Carl H. Amberg 1976 – 1979
  • Donald R. Wiles 1979 – 1987
  • Ronald A. Shigeishi 1987 – 1994
  • James S. Wright 1994 – 1997
  • Gerald W. Buchanan 1997 – 2006
  • Robert C. Burk 2006 – 2014
  • Robert Crutchley – 2014 – 2020
  • Maria DeRosa 2020 – 2021
  • Robert C. Burk 2021 – 2022
  • Seán Barry 2022 – Present