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James E. Till fonds
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James E. Till fonds

  • UTA 1827
  • Fonds
  • 1910-2009

Personal records of James E. Till, consisting primarily of correspondence, honours and awards, teaching materials, research and administrative files, manuscripts and addresses (including slides), interviews, and photographs, documenting Dr. Till's career as a professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto and as a cancer specialist. Includes files on the Centre (later Joint Centre) for Bioethics and the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Ontario Cancer Institute /Princess Margaret Hospital.

Till, James E.


This series begins with a folder of reports prepared by Dr. Till on his research and intended primarily for internal administrative use, for notation in academic journals, for entries in volumes such as Canadian Who’s Who and, latterly, online sources. The years covered are 1987-2001.
The remaining files contain correspondence, notes, drafts of reports and support material for the following areas of research: growth models, ‘stochastic models of population growth’, repression genetics, and Iceland and privacy legislation, associated with which is a copy Evangeline Racha’s master’s thesis for Stanford University, “Iceland’s decode genetics: bellwether for population genomics research” (2001). The ‘stochastic models’ file relates to the early famous paper by Drs. Till, McCulloch and Siminovitch and contains correspond-ence and notes, with related papers, between Drs. Till and W. A. O’N. Waugh for the years 1963 to1967.

University of Toronto

This series focuses on Dr. Till’s professional duties at the University of Toronto, primarily within the Centre (later Joint Centre) for Bioethics, but also includes files on committees with which he was involved, such as the Presidential Commission on the Health Sciences (Leyerle, chair). There are also files on the Department of Medical Biophysics, the Institute of Medical Science, and the School of Graduate Studies, especially its feasibility committee on a graduate program in bioethics which Dr. Till chaired (1985-1987), and the courses that he taught.

The first files document Dr. Till’s employment at the University of Toronto, primarily from 1981 when he was appointed associate dean of Division 4, School of Graduate Studies. The files also cover his receiving tenure, his position as University Professor, and his retirement. These are followed by files on computer use, systems, and websites, about which he wrote extensively (see Series 7) from the late 1990s.

The files on the Centre for Bioethics are extensive and detailed, beginning with the recommendations in 1987-1988 of the ‘Lowy Committee’, and include, of particular significance, Dr. Till’s files on seminars held there from 1988 to 1995. The Centre evolved into the Joint Centre on Bioethics in December 1995, with Dr. Till playing a significant role in the process and subsequently as a member of its advisory committee and in the creating of new courses and seminars.

These files are followed immediately by several on the Department of Medical Biophysics and in the Institute of Medical Science. There are also files on a course leading to a BSc in radiation sciences and a medicinal chemistry course offered to pharmacy students. Most of the remaining files in this series relate to the School of Graduate Studies as described above. The courses (arranged by course number) are primarily those offered in the medical biophysics program: human genetics, radiobiology, mathematical biophysics, quantitative biology, oncology, health economics, and bioethics. They date from 1962 to 2005. The series concludes with a file on the Medical Biophysics Student Day (12 May 1995).

This series contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, and detailed (latterly typed) notes for lectures, with accompanying course outlines and related material. Except for the course material, the files largely date from 1975.


Photographs document mainly the professional life of Dr. Till. Included are various portraits and publicity shots taken of Dr. Till throughout his career. There are also photographs relating to his education at the University of Saskatchewan, his association with various organizations including the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC), honours and awards including the Thomas W. Edie Medal (1991) and his honorary degree from the University of Toronto in 2004. Dr. Till attended and participated in many professional conferences and symposiums. Early ones documented here are: NCIC conference in 1954; Congress of Radiation Researchers, Monte Carlo,1968; International Congress of Developmental Biologists, Moscow, 1969. Finally this series includes a few early family photos dated 1910-1950.


The correspondence in this series consists is primarily professional, with a number of personal letters scattered throughout. Though the outside dates are given as 1962 to 2005, the bulk of the correspondence dates from the mid-1970s. The arrangement is alphabetical
by name of the author, with a ‘miscellaneous” file at the beginning of many letters. Included are substantial files on individuals who were closely connected with the University of Toronto and/or the Ontario Cancer Institute, including Ronald Buick, Alastair J. Cunningham, Norman Iscove, Harold E. Johns, Dorothy Lamont, Tak Mak, Ernest A. McCulloch and David Tritchler. Non-University of Toronto people, with whom there is extensive correspondence, include Sam Lan and William J. McKillop.

The correspondence covers a wide range of Dr. Till’s activities during the period covered.

Some of it relates to honours bestowed on his colleagues, including the recognition of those who had died with accompanying eulogies and obituaries. There is much correspondence on issues relating to research, including the writing of papers and the delivering of public addresses, and including drafts of some of the latter. There are also letters of reference, correspondence and memoranda relating to the defence of theses and to visiting professors and researchers. Also accompanying the correspondence is notes, biographical sketches, programmes, articles, photographs and a few slides.


When giving public addresses, Dr. Till often made liberal use of slides, overheads and, latterly, “powerpoint”. Some of his presentations consist solely of slides or the paper originals of overheads (the acetate overheads have, for the most part, been disposed of), which served as illustrations for his remarks. Where identified, these have been retained.

The series begins with a number of folders containing a mixture of correspondence about, notes and background information for, and occasional press coverage of, addresses for the years 1965-1982. These are followed by files for approximately 90 addresses (and a few interviews) arranged chronologically, with accompanying correspondence and drafts. Between 1986 and 1994 many of these consist predominantly of slides. While most addresses were given at conferences, seminars, and workshops dealing with various aspects of his research, Dr. Till also gave freely of his time to speak to the broader public. Included is his address to the Royal Society of London, into which he was inducted in 2000.

Personal records

This series consists of biographical information about James Till, primarily in the form of press clippings, biographical sketches he penned, university diplomas for BA (1952) and MA (1954) from University of Saskatchewan, curriculum vitae, and two full length articles about him and his work. Records documenting honours and awards include the original certificates, correspondence, and photographs documenting recognition in his field of expertise, honorary degrees from University of Lethbridge, the University of Saskatchewan, as well as the University of Toronto (see also Series 3) as well as civic honours such as the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. Also included are files relating to the induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (2004), including a video, and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (2005) both received jointly with Dr. Ernest McCulloch. Manuscripts of some speeches may be found in some files, as well as Series 8.

National Cancer Institute of Canada, Ontario Cancer Institute

Dr. Till was associated both with the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC, a granting agency) and the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI, a research institute), where he was a salaried employee. The OCI is an affiliate of Princess Margaret Hospital, a teaching hospital at the University of Toronto and part of the University Health Network.

This series begins with Dr. Till’s files documenting his involvement with the NCIC, in particular his membership in a number of committees and centres. He chaired the NCIC’s Advisory Committee on Research (ACOR) from 1993 to 1995, and the Selection Committee for Executive Director (1996). Other committees documented here are the Committee on Planning and Priorities (1995), the External International Review Committee (1991), the National Task Force on Personnel (1992), and the Joint Task Force on Behavioural Research and the centre that arose from its recommendations, the Centre Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation (CBRPE). The NCIC files conclude with a review of its policies on workshops, its eighth course on oncology (1992), its 1995 annual meeting and Dr. Till’s presentation, ‘An ethics of research priorities’ (1994).

The files of the Ontario Cancer Institute/Princess Margaret Hospital document Dr. Till’s involvement with its Board and committee activities, centring around the relocation of the Princess Margaret Hospital to University Avenue in 1995 and the reappraisal of its research and teaching programs and related issues such as intellectual property rights. The most substantial files are on Board retreats, the committee to review clinical research, the intellectual property committee, the planning committee’s sub-committee on governance, and the health status group. Other committees and reports focus on aspects of structural reorganization, space requirements, ‘visioning’, and aspects of planning such as patient care.

The series ends with files on the quality of life assessment project (1993-1994) and a site visit to the OCI’s Division of Biological Research in November 1986.

The material in this series consists of correspondence, notes, memoranda, minutes, reports, press coverage, cartoons and architectural drawings. The arrangement is by descending order of authority within each organization and alphabetically by name of committee.

Professional organizations

This slim series contains files about the following organizations: Addiction Research Foundation, American Society of Blood and Marrow Transportation, Canadian Bioethics Society, Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Care Ontario, the Medical Research Council of Canada, and the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation.

These files contain primarily correspondence which, in all but two instances, is routine. In 1998 the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transportation inaugurated its Ernest McCulloch and James Till Award. A file on the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation contains material relating to the report of a research working group of the Provincial Cancer Network headed by Ronald Buick that reported at the end of 1994, and the work done by the transition team to implement its recommendations.

Manuscripts and publications

Dr. Till’s publications number over two hundred and there are files on most of them in this series. It begins with a file of letters to the editor for the years 1970 to 2002. Dr. Till’s articles, chapters in books, and “comments” are arranged chronologically. Included are a few manuscripts for papers that were not published. Researchers interested in a number of collaborative articles with Ernest McCulloch that are missing should consult Dr. McCulloch’s personal records, also in the University Archives.

The files contain any combination of research notes, correspondence, drafts, offprints, and other supporting documentation. Internal reports for administrative purposes at the University of Toronto, the Ontario Cancer Institute, and other organizations are not included in this series and few are present elsewhere in this accession.

Photographs used for figures have been retained with the articles to which they pertain.

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