Fonds 1403 - James Nairn Patterson Hume fonds

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UTA 1403


James Nairn Patterson Hume fonds


  • 1941-1997 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

3.8 m of multimedia records (25 boxes and 4 items)

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Professor James Nairn Patterson (Pat) Hume is recognized as a pioneer in the field of computer science. Born in 1923 in Brooklyn N.Y., his family moved to Goderich, Ontario when he was seven which is where he received his early education. In 1941, he entered Math and Physics at the University of Toronto and graduated with his B.A. in 1945. He went on to earn both a M.A. (1946) and Ph.D. (1949) in Physics from the University of Toronto. After graduating he spent a year teaching at Rutgers University before returning to the University of Toronto to become an Assistant Professor of Physics and in 1963 Professor of Computer Science with a cross appointment to Physics. Throughout his career, he also held various administrative positions in the Department of Computer Science including Chairman from 1975-1980. He was also Associate Dean (Physical Sciences) for the School of Graduate Studies and from 1981-1988 was Master of Massey College.

Prof. Hume was one of the first faculty members at the University of Toronto to work with the FERUT computer (Canada’s 1st electronic computer). This work led to the development of some of the earliest software world wide including TRANSCODE, a forerunner to modern computer programming language. Prof. Hume co-authored with R.C. Holt nine textbooks on programming language used by high school and university students throughout Canada. Other areas on which he has written papers include, batch scheduling, data security, software engineering, and computer systems analysis. Throughout his career, he has played an active role in professional organizations that promote computer research such as the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP).

Prof. Hume is equally well known for his role in physics education through his partnership with Prof. Donald Ivey of the Department of Physics. Together they were pioneers in Canadian educational television, writing and performing in over 70 television programmes and four films on physics between 1958 and 1966. Many of these programmes were for the CBC’s programme “The Nature of Things” and both men have been internationally recognized for their work. Awards include two Ohio State Awards each for best television program in Natural and Physical Sciences (1962), a silver medal for the film Random Events from the Scientific Institute in Rome and the prestigious Edison Award for best science education film of 1962 for Frames of Reference, now considered a classic in its genre.

Aside from his, professional work, Prof. Hume has been an active member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto where he helped produce the Spring Review.

He died at his home in Toronto with his family at his side on May 9, 2013 at the age of 90. He is survived by his wife Patricia.

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Scope and content

Records in this fonds document to varying degrees the dual aspects of Prof. Hume’s career – as a computer scientist and as a teacher of physics. This fonds does not, in any substantial way, document his many administrative roles within the University of Toronto or within professional associations.

For a good overview of his career, researchers should consult Series 1 Biographical for summary information on his achievements and career highlights. Series 3 Professional Correspondence also gives a good overview of what Prof. Hume was working on at a given period of time because it is varied in content and is arranged chronologically. Additional correspondence documenting these activities specifically can be found in Series 4 Publishing, Series 6 Professional Activities and Series 7 Broadcasting and Film. His research in computer science and the many ways he disseminated that knowledge through articles, talks, published works and teaching is documented in Series 4 Publishing, Series 5 Talks and Addresses and Series 6 Teaching. Researchers should note however that manuscripts do not exist for any of the computer science textbooks for which he was so well known nor are there extensive notes, memos or correspondence that discuss writing projects except some correspondence with publishers. There is, however, a good representation of his talks and lectures as well a manuscript and typescript of his textbook Physics in Two Volumes, co-authored with Donald Ivey.

His work in educational television and film is very well documented and is contained in Series 7 Broadcasting and Film. Records in this series will be of interest to researchers studying early Canadian broadcasting, educational television, and the teaching of science – in particular physics for general consumption. Several reports found in this series discuss the themes and goals of many of the programmes.

Finally, a lighter side of Prof. Hume can be found in Series 8 Arts and Letters Club, as it relates to his involvement in the Spring Review. Records in this series would be of interest to anyone researching amateur musical theatre and arts clubs generally.

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-Finding aid by Marnee Gamble
-Added to AtoM by Karen Suurtamm, Summer 2015




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