From 1936 to 1974, Fry was professor of zoology at the University of Toronto. From 1941 to 1945, he also did research in aviation medicine with the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1974, he was named professor emeritus and became an associate of the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto.
A brilliant scientist and influential teacher, he is best known internationally for his work in physiological ecology, which developed a new understanding of the activities of fish in relation to the physical and chemical environment. His major contribution to population dynamics, “virtual population analysis,” remains one of the principal tools used internationally to manage major fisheries.
He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1944, was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1948, and received many medals and awards. He was president of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography in 1951, the American Fisheries Society and the Canadian Society of Zoologists in 1966, and the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists in 1972. In 1974, the Canadian Society of Zoologists established the Fry medal in recognition of his contribution to Canadian science.