John Tuzo WilsonJohn Tuzo Wilson, geophysicist (b at Ottawa 24 Oct 1908; d at Toronto 15 Apr 1993). After obtaining the University of Toronto's first Bachelor of Arts in geophysics (1930), Wilson attended Cambridge (1932, 1940) and Princeton universities (1936), and worked with the GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA (1936-39). He was professor of geophysics at the University of Toronto (1946-74) and principal of Erindale College (1967-74).
Wilson was internationally respected for his work on glaciers, mountain building, geology of ocean basins, and structure of continents; his greatest contribution lay in his explanation of PLATE TECTONICS. He also pioneered the use of air photos in geological mapping and was responsible for the first glacial map of Canada. While searching for unknown arctic islands in 1946-47, Wilson became the second Canadian to fly over the NORTH POLE, a site he revisited in 1982.
Wilson served on the National Research Council (1958-64), the Defence Research Board of Canada (1960-66) and the Science Council of Canada (1977-83). Besides his academic work, Wilson wrote for popular audiences, including 2 books on China that helped reopen relations between China and Western countries. In 1935 he became the first person to ascend Mount Hague in Montana, following the example of his mountain-climbing parents. Mount Tuzo in the Rocky Mountains bears his mother's name.
After "retirement" in 1974, Wilson combined his science and public interests as director general of the ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE (1974-85), remained at the University of Toronto as a distinguished lecturer (1974-77) and professor emeritus (1977) and was chancellor of York University (1983-86). After his second retirement, in addition to preparing an autobiography, he continued a number of writing and research projects.
Recognition of his contributions to geophysics included his election as president of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (1957-60), 15 honorary degrees, the naming of an award after him, at least 35 medals or awards from the Royal Society of Canada (1955) and various physics, geology and geography organizations including the Vetlesen Prize, considered equivalent to a Nobel Prize for earth scientists. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada.