Day Two: 1921 Toronto AAAS

Another 1921-2021 Centennial in the History of Canadian Science and Technology.

First posted Tuesday, December 28, 2021 / Yom shishi, 24 Tevet, 5782.

By David Orenstein

This is the third blog post in a six-part series commemorating the centennial of the 1921 Toronto meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Wednesday, December 28, 1921:



There were four Astronomy Section D sessions: the Wednesday morning, December 28, was officially a Section D-RASC joint session, chaired by Mitchell. The retiring Vice-President of Section D, Joel Stebbins, University of Illinois, spoke on “Observation versus Experimentation” and Chant himself, “Popularizing Astronomy”. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and Thursday morning, with Klotz presiding, it was all RASC, for a total of 23 papers.

Six were from U.S. based astronomers, including Mitchell (“Comparison of trigonometric and spectroscopic parallaxes”) and another Leander McCormick astronomer, C. P. Olivier: “The present status of meteor observations.”

Eleven came from Ottawa’s Dominion Observatory. Ralph Emerson DeLury, brother of U of T Math Chair Alfred Tennyson DeLury, gave three: “Systematic errors in micrometer measurements”, “Second note on Cepheid variation”, and “Measurements of the distance of the sun deduced from its spectrum,” this last co-authored with John L. O’Connor.

From Victoria, BC’s, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, travelled Harry Plaskett, son of DAO director John Stanley Plaskett, and future director William Edmund Harper, only three and a half years after the May 6,1918, first light for their 72-inch reflecting telescope, speaking respectively on “The pickering series in O-type stars” and “Three spectroscopic orbits, [of binary stars], each based on component spectra”.

Also from Western Canada was John W. Campbell, University of Alberta: “Orbit of the spectroscopic binary H.R. 5942”, using 20 plates from the DAO. Campbell was able to avail himself of the welcome that the DAO gave regularly to “faculty members of Canadian and nearby American universities as visiting researchers.”

Campbell had studied first at Queen’s University before a 1915 Ph. D. at the University of Chicago on the three-body problem. Then to Wesley College, Winnipeg, the Canadian artillery, Khaki College, and the University of Iowa, before joining the Mathematics Department at the University of Alberta in 1920, where he taught an introductory course in astronomy for many years.

The American Mathematical Society had held its own regular sessions, on the Wednesday, as their 28th annual meeting. The 32 paper programme had paired papers balancing papers of paired authors, for a net 30 contributors, out of 84 AMS members attending.

There were only two Canadian presenters: Ottawa high school principal and later school inspector, J.S.C. Glashan: twinned papers on the isodyadic quintic and septimic equations; and Samuel Beatty, University of Toronto Mathematics Professor, who had been Fields’ sole Ph.D. student, whose paper was on a subject dear to Fields’ heart: “The algebraic theory of algebraic functions”.

The newly elected section V-P, Miller, contributed two of his many papers building up Group Theory: “Substitutions which are commutative with every substitution of an intransitive group” and “Seeming contradictions in the theory of groups.”

Only two women contributed, Olive C. Hazlett (Mount Holyoke College), “A symbolic theory of expansions in orthogonal functions” and Louise D. Cummings (Vassar College), “Hesse’s associated points and the Weddel surface”.

Cummings’ and Hazlett’s affiliations were in The American Mathematical Monthly’s list of 110 members in attendance for the MAA sessions. Seven papers, none by women, though eleven were present. Eight more Americans: Clara L. Bacon and Florence P. Lewis, Goucher College; Sister Mariola Dobbin, St. Clara College; Mrs. F.W. Owens there with her husband F.W. Owens, both of Cornell University; Mrs. Anna J. Pell, Bryn Mawr College; Mary E. Sinclair, Wellesley College; and Jessica M. Young, Washington University. The only Canadian woman: Jennie A. Kinnear, from Port Colborne, Ontario.

Section M Engineering reconvened Wednesday morning with John Murphy’s (Electrical Engineer, Canadian Dept. of Railways and Canals) “Ice Formation and Prevention…”, a very Canadian topic. He suggested using artificial heat to keep the metal parts of hydro installations a shade above freezing.

Then it was “Engineering Standardization”, followed by several papers on mining in Canada: “Fifty Years of Progress…”, “Metal Mining…”, Gold Mining…”, and “Nickle Mining and Smelting”.


“[M]any members of the association and their friends visited The Royal Ontario Museum, on special invitation.

Section O (not zero) Agriculture and Associated Societies “met on Wednesday afternoon… with six associated societies”, with over fifty people enjoying the symposium “The Cooperation of Canada and the United States in the Field of Agriculture”.


The Varsity, U of T’s student newspaper, Wednesday, January 11, 1922: “EVOLUTION IS ESTABLISHED FACT. Bateson Says it is Not Yet Understood”. Thus, the Varsity summarised the Association’s headline speaker, William Bateson, invited jointly by the Triple-A S and the American Society of Zoologists, an affiliate society of Section F Zoology. Bateson spoke on Wednesday evening, December 28, in Convocation Hall, on “Evolutionary Faith and Modern Doubts” with “the fact of evolution” being well-established “but the exact mode of evolution remaining an unsolved problem.” degrees. The reigning American Association President, University of Chicago Mathematician Eliakim Hastings Moore, presided. Bateson’s address was followed by a special Convocation where Howard, Moore and Bateson dubbed Doctors of Science honoris causa by Falconer., with a reception following.

Bateson stayed in Toronto longer than the duration of the American Association Meeting. The Varsity had announced back in November “a course of five lectures from 5 to 6 p.m. on January 3, 5, 6, 9, and 10 on the subject of ‘Genetics and Heredity’”, which were also given in Convocation Hall. Bateson was hailed as “Past President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and as one of the finest biologists of modern times.” Bateson had also been the co-founder of the Journal of Genetics along with R.C. Pinnett, eleven years earlier in 1910.            



Section D Abstrfxst.

Hart House 1921

Niagara Power as Tourist Attraction.

The American Mathematical Monthly, 1922.

1921 Toronto AAAS Centennial Blog Posts:

Introducing the 1921-2021 Centennials, January 6, 2021.

Jennie A. Kinnear, October 8, 2021.

Happy 131st Birthday Jenny, December 12, 2021.

Fields and Friends as Architecture, December 17, 2021.

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