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History

W. A. Riddell ca. 1951

Chemistry is one of only six subjects that has been taught since the University of Regina began as Regina College in 1911. The College offered matriculation (grade 12) and 1st year college courses, up until it became Regina Campus (of the University of Saskatchewan) in 1961, when it began to teach sophomore (2nd-year) chemistry. Full chemistry degree programs may have begun in 1974, when Regina Campus became the University of Regina.

In 1911, Regina College's first president, Rev. Wilbur W. Andrews, was the chemistry instructor. Rev. Andrews obtained his chemistry degree in Ontario in 1896, the year before the discovery of the electron. His wife, Nellie Greenwood, is widely believed to have been the first woman to graduate with a B.Sc. in science in Canada (in 1884). They came to Regina from Mount Allison (New Brunswick), where Wilbur had been a professor.

In fact, Regina College was led by chemists at two other notable times. By 1940, once the University of Saskatchewan was directing the College, the top position was not a President, but a Dean. Steward Basterfield, Dean of Regina College from 1940-1950, began as an associate professor of organic chemistry professor at the University of Saskatchewan in 1913. In 1920, he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, was promoted to full professor, and became one the charter members of the newly founded Canadian Institute of Chemists. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1933, before coming to Regina.

William A. Riddell (shown here) was a former M.Sc. Student of Basterfield (they did publish at least one paper together, in 1929). After receiving his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1931, Dr. Riddell began as a professor at Regina College in 1931-35 but the Great Depression was not kind to the College, and Dr. Riddell moved to government laboratories, first for the Department of Fisheries in Prince Rupert (1935-8), and the Saskatchewan Department of Health in Regina (1938-50), becoming its Director in 1942. Recruited to lead the College, Dr. Riddell was Dean of the College from 1950-61, and became the first Principal of Regina Campus in 1961, continuing in that capacity until 1969.

The Department of Chemistry was first formed in 1965. A. William (Bill) Johnson, another organic chemist, was its first Chairperson (1965-67), followed by Wallace B. McConnell (1967-1973). W. David Chandler then led the department for 18 years (1973-1991). While biochemistry had always been taught since the Regina College days, the Department of Chemistry added Biochemistry into its name only in the late 1990s.

Our department has contributed not only to the education of students, but to scientific knowledge. As of 2018, the number of research papers published by the department is difficult to quantify, but is thought to be near 600.

Chemistry Laboratory ca. 1914