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1924: Thorbergur Thorvaldson

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On 22 August 1924 the Chemistry Building was officially opened. Perhaps by coincidence, Walter Murray noted in his annual report for that year the ongoing research into decay of concrete, work which had begun years earlier as an interdisciplinary project between C.J. Mackenzie, Dean of Engineering, and Thorbergur Thorvaldson, head of the Department of Chemistry. The deterioration and failure of concrete structures had been a growing cause for concern throughout Western Canada. Research at the University determined that sulphates in alkaline ground water were causing the deterioration; and for the next decade, Thorvaldson and his graduate students researched means of prevention. The results of their work changed the manufacturing of commercial cement and significantly increased the durability of concrete structures.
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In his annual report for 1952, President W.P. Thompson noted Thorvaldson’s “remarkable capacity as a scientist,” and praised his contributions: “Many of the problems solved by his wide knowledge and experimental ability have been directly related to economic improvement, and the value of his researches could be computed in amounts considerably greater than have been spent on the construction and maintenance of the University during its entire history. He has built up a Department of Chemistry that has carried the fame of the University wherever his students have gone.”

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In the fall of 1966 the Chemistry Building, including a planned addition, was renamed the Thorvaldson Building. The official opening of the addition and the dedication were held in June 1966, eight months after Thorvaldson’s death.

Related Collections

T. Thorvaldson fonds, MG 20


1924a: Architect’s sketch of the chemistry building, 1924. Photograph Collection, A-5955.
1924b: Thorvaldson in cement testing lab, 1958. Photograph Collection, A-1640.
1924c: Citation honouring Thorvaldson. Thorvaldson fonds, XV.(h).

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