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Chalmers J. MacKenzie (1948–1961)

Chalmers Mackenzie at the University of Regina
Chalmers Mackenzie at the University of Regina

A World War I veteran and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's (CNSC's) longest-reigning president

Chalmers Jack Mackenzie was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick on July 10, 1888. The son of a master mason and builder, he was the youngest of six children. Mackenzie forged his way to the top of his peer group at Dalhousie University while pursuing an engineering degree. In 1909, he graduated from Dalhousie with a degree in civil engineering.

After attaining his baccalaureate, Mackenzie was invited to create an engineering program at the University of Saskatchewan. Mackenzie dedicated a couple of years to the program but shortly after commencing his position as a professor of engineering, he interrupted his post to pursue further education at Harvard University. Completing his degree in record time, Mackenzie graduated from Harvard with a master's degree in civil engineering and returned to teach at the University of Saskatchewan.

Chalmers Mackenzie, former NRC President

In 1916, Chalmers Mackenzie enlisted in the First World War. Mackenzie served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France until the end of the war, rose to the rank of Captain and was awarded the Military Cross. At the end of the war Mackenzie returned to the University of Saskatchewan as the Dean of Engineering.

Following his time at the University of Saskatchewan, Mackenzie was appointed to the National Research Council (NRC) Advisory Board. Under the leadership of General Andrew McNaughton, Mackenzie took an active role in NRC deliberations and projects. Mackenzie was so effective in his duties that he was appointed acting President when McNaughton left to fill the post of Commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Mackenzie transformed the NRC and explored its potential, contributing significant science and technology resources to the war effort.

Published letters between former CNSC presidents Andrew McNaughton and Chalmers Mackenzie

Further to his great success during his term as NRC President, Chalmers Mackenzie was appointed to the position of President of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), then a newly formed Crown corporation. Over a period of two years, Mackenzie was commended for his ability to navigate a direction for AECL and was then invited to lead the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB, the CNSC's predecessor). Mackenzie was the President of the AECB for 13 years, making him the longest-reigning president in the history of the CNSC and the AECB.

In light of his contribution to the scientific, academic, nuclear and military communities, Mackenzie received an array of awards of recognition. Mackenzie was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1941) and to the Royal Society of London (1946). He received honorary degrees from the University of British Columbia, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Western Ontario, Queen's University, McMaster University and the University of New Brunswick. Mackenzie was also awarded the Kelvin Medal of the Institute of Civil Engineers (1953), the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (1943), the US Medal for Merit (1947) and the Royal Bank Award (1968), and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada (1967).

Chalmers Mackenzie receiving an honorary degree from the University of British Columbia

Chalmers Mackenzie is an important figure in our history as an organization, as well as in Canadian history. Along with Andrew McNaughton, he is one of two Canadian war veterans who also served within our institution as President. This Remembrance Day, as you reflect on those who have dedicated their lives to the preservation of our great nation, remember our veterans.

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