Fonds 1719 - Betty I. Roots fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1719


Betty I. Roots fonds


  • 1941-2015 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

8.22 m of textual and graphic records and publications (65 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Dr. Betty Ida Roots was a zoologist who was born October 21, 1927 at South Croydon Surrey, England. She was responsible for initiating and developing the collaborative Ph.D. program in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. Her research interests, which awarded grants from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, included the response of animals to changes in their environment with special reference to the nervous systems and the structure and function of glial cells and neuron-glia relationships particularly from a phylogenetic point of view.

She attained her B.Sc. with Special Honours in Zoology in 1949 from University College at the University of London. Dr. Roots continued her education at the University College where she completed a Diploma in Education at the Institution of Education in 1950. Three years later, she gained a Ph.D. in Zoology, specializing in Comparative Physiology, from her alma mater. By 1981, Dr. Roots would be awarded a Doctorate of Science from the University of London for research in the fields of comparative physiology and neurobiology.

During and following her PhD, Roots worked at University College as a Demonstrator in Zoology between 1952-1953, and as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Biology and Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine between 1952-1959 and 1961-1962, a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy from 1962-1966, and was a Research Neuroscientists for the Department of Neurosciences during 1968-1969. Roots was also visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1959-1961 and came back as Visiting Scientist from 1966-1967.

She then immigrated to Canada where she joined the University of Toronto as an Associate Professor of Zoology in 1969. In 1972, she was promoted to Professor and was also appointed Assistant Chair of Zoology until 1975. Roots spent 1976-1980 as Associate Dean of Sciences at Erindale College and in 1984, Roots was named Chair of the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto, a position that she held for six years. In 1993, she was promoted to the rank of Professor Emeritus. Between 1998 and 2009 Roots was the Dean’s Designate for Academic Behaviour (Sciences).

Dr. Roots held many administrative positions including membership in the Canadian Committee of University Biology Chairmen from 1984 to 1990 and Chair of the Council of Heads of University Departments of Biological Sciences of Ontario from 1984-1987. Roots developed the Collaborative Ph.D. programme in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto and also planned, established, and was responsible for, the Electron Microscope Facility at Erindale College until 1987.

Dr. Roots primarily taught courses on subjects related to animal physiology, electron microscopy, photography for ecologists, biological chemistry, and neurobiology. Her teaching experience extends on all levels for science and medical students in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada. In March and April of 1976, she was a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, advising on the newly established Medical College for Women and teaching the students. She returned as a Visiting Professor in January 1978.

Throughout her career, Dr. Roots was very active in a number of professional associations and committees including the American Society for Neurochemistry, the Canadian Association for Neuroscience, the Canadian Federation of Biological Sciences where she served as a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee from 1990 to 1992, the Canadian Microscopical Society where she was a member of the Organizing committee of the Ninth International Congress on Electron Microscopy held in Toronto in August 1978, the Canadian Society of Zoologists, the International Society for Neurochemistry, the Royal Canadian Institute, where she was President in 1994 and chair of the 150th anniversary book committee, the Royal Microscopical Society, the Royal Society of Canada, Sigma XI and the Southern Ontario Neuroscience Association.

Roots published more than one hundred papers in scientific journals and authored, co-authored and edited a number of books including “Nerve membranes. A study of the biological and chemical aspects of neuron-glia relationships” with P. V. Johnston, published in 1972 by Pergamon Press, Oxford and Special Places: The Changing Ecosystems of the Toronto Region, published by University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver in 1999, for which she was Editor-in-Chief.

Dr. Roots passed away at the age of 93 on October 24th, 2020.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This fonds contains records related to the teaching, researching and publishing activities of Dr. Betty I. Roots, biologist and professor at the University of Toronto. The series documenting Dr. Roots’ research is by far the largest, with smaller series documenting her involvement with professional associations and committees, her roles as a peer editor and reviewer, as well as a supervisor of her graduate students, her addresses, the courses she taught, her correspondence and her early education. There is also a relatively large amount of material documenting her administrative activities within the University of Toronto.

Records include correspondence, notebooks, research data, manuscripts, lecture notes, prints, and reports.

The material covers almost exclusively her professional roles with very little personal material of any kind. Of this material, most of it documents her researching and publishing pursuits.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The arrangement of this fonds is based on the order in which Dr. Roots kept her files. A number of files were stored separately as desk drawer files and as such were not mixed in with the rest of the series they belonged to. These desk drawer files will frequently be arranged at the end of each series in chronological order.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

All files are open, with the exception of:
Series 6: B2015-0004/050 (06)
Series 8:

  • B2015-0004/060 (01), (17)-(19), (21)
  • B2015-0004/061 (02), (04)-(17)
  • B2015-0004/062 (08)

Series 9:

  • B2015-0004/063 (04)-(05), (09)-(11)
  • B2015-0004/064 (03), (11)

These files are restricted for 30 years after the file date.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)



Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

Dates of creation revision deletion

  • Original finding aid by K. Cohen-Palacios and Sid Kesik, 2015
  • Added to AtoM by Sid Kesik, April 2016
  • 2024-02-06: Updated expired restrictions (E. Sommers)




Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places