File B1978-0025 - Welsh, Harry Lambert (oral history)

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UTA 5001-B1978-0025


Welsh, Harry Lambert (oral history)


  • Oct-Dec 1978 (Creation)

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8 sound tape reels (375 mins.)

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Welsh, Harry Lambert BA 1930, MA 1931, PhD 1936. Professor of Physics and Chairman of the Physics Department.

Dr. Harry Lambert Welsh (1910-1984) was a prominent physicist. Born in 1910 near Aurora, Ontario, Dr. Welsh made use of the travelling libraries to Aurora at an early age and gained enthusiasm for the field of astronomy, an interest that eventually spurred his career as a physics professor.

Upon completion of high school, Dr. Welsh and his family moved to Toronto, Ontario where in 1926, he enrolled in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Toronto. Despite a strong interest in music and the piano, Dr. Welsh decided to commit himself to the study of physics, and obtained his Master’s degree in 1931. Inspired by a series of lectures delivered by Nobel Laureate James Franck, Dr. Welsh decided to pursue his PhD in Göttingen, Germany under Franck. However, the rise of the Hitler regime in Germany forced Dr. Welsh back to Toronto where he was able to complete his PhD in 1936 on the topic of selective reflection from mercury.

Dr. Welsh joined the Department of Physics at the U of T after his graduation, and with the outbreak of World War II, he helped prepare and deliver lectures on electronics and the use of radar to Canadian Armed Forces personnel. In 1942, Dr. Welsh married Marguerite Ostrander and for the final two years of the war, the couple moved to Ottawa where Dr. Welsh worked in operations research for the Royal Canadian Navy. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Commander.

When the war ended, Dr. Welsh and Marguerite returned to Toronto where he was able to continue his previous research in molecular spectroscopy, and with the help of colleagues made several important advances in that field. During his time at the U of T, Dr. Welsh helped supervise 65 graduate students, served as the Chairman of Physics (1962-1968), was awarded the Canadian Association of Physicists Medal for Achievement in Physics (1961), was President of the Canadian Association of Physicists (1974-74), and was awarded numerous honorary degrees. In 1972, Dr. Welsh was awarded the Medal of Service and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Started as a series of lectures to honor Dr. Welsh’s 65th birthday in 1975, the University of Toronto and the Department of Physics established a series of annual lectures every May known as the H.L Welsh Lectureship.

Dr. Welsh was well known for his broad knowledge beyond physics – he was a talented musician, a historian, and he was well versed in Russian language and literature, spending much of his free time translating Russian scientific papers for use in English speaking countries.

Harry Lambert Welsh died on July 23, 1984 at the age of 74.

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Oral history interview conducted by Paul A. Bator. Covers Welsh's career and the history of the Dept. of Physics, its faculty and students. Focuses on his undergraduate days and decision to choose Science, the influence of Sir John McLennan, graduate student observations of Germany in the 1930s, effects of World War II on the Dept., including the radar training school and post-war expansion of the department and advances in fields of astronomy, geophysics, and computer science.

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No transcript

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Oral history has been digitized. Contact Archives to download mp3 files.

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