Day Four: 1921 Toronto AAAS

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

First posted Thursday, December 30, 2021 / Yom shishi, 26 Tevet, 5782.

By David Orenstein

This is the fifth 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).

Friday, December 30, 1921:


The Friday morning session of Section M Engineering was mostly on Engineering, as of course, were the sessions of the affiliated Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education. R. H. Harris, Toronto’s Works Commissioner (justly renowned for overseeing such gems as Toronto’s Prince Edward Viaduct and his eponymous Filtration Plant on Lake Ontario) on the employer’s views on the qualifications of a young engineer. Also, “Professional Engineering Education for the Industries” and “[T]he function of the secondary technical school”.


Friday afternoon, the address of the Vice-President of Section K Social and Economic Sciences, Dr. Frederick L. Hoffman (Prudential Life Insurance) looked at “The Organsiation of Knowledge.”

It was followed by a joint Section K and Section Q (Education) symposium: “An International Auxiliary Language”.


Friday evening, the 30th, the mathematicians joined the physicists for a celebratory dinner at Victoria College’s gothic Burwash Hall, on the east side of campus, though some may have instead attended the Women’s Dinner, held in the Great Hall of Hart House.

The following day the Globe noted that “High Honour Paid Women Visitors”, since theirs was the “First Women’s Banquet Held in Hart House”.

Just as her husband Joseph Burr Tyrrell had at Section M, “Mrs. J. B. Tyrrell presided, to her right Mrs. Cockshutt, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario; to her left , Lady Falconer, wife of the President of the University. [W]hile Mrs. Chester Martin, wife of the American Consul, and three distinguished guests, Dr. Comstock, Dr. Canavan, and Mrs. Li[ving]stone, were also at the high table.”

Mr. J.B. Tyrrell was with the Engineers and Geologists who also banqueted at Hart House that evening, with one hundred delegates present.

At Burwash Hall there likely was informal discussion whether the exclusion of mathematicians from Germany (and from the other Central Powers) made Leonard E. Dickson’s invitation to host the 1924 International Congress of Mathematicians in the United States a big mistake. And Fields overheard the casual suggestion that the Congress be moved to Toronto.

Precisely a year later, on December 26, 1922, at a meeting of the Council of the American Mathematical Society, John Charles Fields (confident because of the overwhelming success of the 1921 AAAS Meeting) outlined a plan for an International Mathematical Congress in Toronto for 1924, in conjunction with a Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, already under preparation.

But that’s an anniversary that we can start to celebrate next year.



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.

Canadian STEM&M Anniversaries in 2022, CfC, December 21, 2021.

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