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Letters to the editor


Missing impact on experiment-based research

Having read the article “The New Normal on Campus” (July-August 2021) I am surprised to see the lack of science or engineering experimental laboratory researchers represented – there are exactly none. And this group, particularly their graduate students, postdocs and visiting scientists (mine went home to his country because he could do nothing!) were profoundly affected by the pandemic. The majority interviewed (75 per cent) are university bureaucrats (six – count ‘em six!!) with two actual researchers (Drs. Byrne and Simard) neither of whom have laboratories with graduate students undertaking experiment-based research. I am terribly disappointed.

Chris Orvig
Dr. Orvig is a professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of British Columbia.


Mischaracterization of origins

I read with interest the article “Rediscovering a secret science lab” ( July-Aug. 2021) describing the contributions of the “Montreal Laboratory” to the Manhattan Project and more broadly to the development of nuclear physics in Canada. The article recounts the arrival in Montreal in 1942 of Dr. Hans Halban. Halban is described as “a French physicist of Austrian origin” who had “traveled to England” in May 1940 to escape the German occupation of Paris. Readers might be forgiven for wondering why “a French physicist of Austrian origin” would have been desperate to leave France in May 1940. Some context may be provided.

Dr. Halban had Jewish ancestry. His grandfather, Heinrich Blumenstock, had been awarded the aristocratic title “von Halban” by Emperor Franz Joseph, and the family converted to Catholicism.

Despite the article’s description of Dr. Halban as being “of Austrian origin” Halban was born in Leipzig, “moved to Würzburg … began his studies in physics at Frankfurt/Main … finished his doctoral studies at the University of Zurich … [and] worked for two years with Niels Bohr at the University of Copenhagen” before he was “invited to join the team of Frédéric Joliot-Curie at the Collège de France in Paris” (Wikipedia). Astute readers will observe that none of those cities is in Austria.

I hope that the mischaracterization of Dr. Halban in the article reflects nothing other than superficial scholarship.

David Josephy
Dr. Josephy is a retired professor of molecular and cellular biology. He worked at the University of Guelph.