1900   1910   1920   1930   1940   1950   1960   1970   1980   1990   2000

1948: First Betatron in Canada

Active support from the Board of Governors, President Thomson, the provincial government and in particular, two years’ of intensive lobbying from physics professors Harold Johns, Ertle Harrington, Newman Haslam, and Leon Katz culminated in the University of Saskatchewan becoming the only site in Canada to have a 25 million electron-volt betatron in 1948. 

The betatron gave the department of physics a first-class facility for radiation treatment research and nuclear research, and the “succession of publications” which followed helped maintain a national reputation for the department and its students.   Indeed, their work has had a cumulative effect for the institution.  The betatron “showed that the department...warranted a linear accelerator facility,”1 which in turn helped demonstrate the suitability of locating the synchrotron on the University campus.

Obtaining Canada’s first betatron in 1948 was the result of a unique set of circumstances.  Not least was the dedicated effort of Johns, Haslam and Katz, whose working relationship was clearly one of respectful friendship.  Much of the credit belongs to E.L. Harrington, head of the department of
physics at the time.   Harrington was “a firm believer that the best physics was...used to develop useful devices and operations,” and was “without question...responsible for the philosophy behind the teaching and research”2 in the department.  Of equally practical outlook was the province’s premier, T.C. Douglas, “who probably even then was contemplating a medicare plan for the Province, [and] was receptive to...arguments that the high-energy x-ray beam was needed for cancer treatment.”3

It was, however, precisely this potential application to which the Atomic Energy Commission expressed their reservations, clearly stating to the University that they had “some doubts as to whether research was fully advanced to make such a project practicable.”4 Harold Johns would soon prove their caution misplaced.

Larger Version

Related Collections

Department of Physics fonds, RG 2043.
L. Katz fonds, MG 39.


1948a: E.L. Harrington. Photograph Collection, A-3191.
1948b: R.N.H. Haslam. Photograph Collection, A-4722.
1948c: H. Johns. Photograph Collection, A-2720.
1948d: L. Katz. Photograph Collection, A-4723.
1948e: letter from Johns to Harrington, Haslam and Katz. Department of Physics fonds, file 2.a.


1. Currie, p. 177.
2. Currie, p. 193.
3. Currie, p. 177.
4. President’s Office Records series II, B.20.

Previous YearReturn to Main PageNext Year