William H. Gauvin

Born: March 30, 1913 | Paris, FR
Died: Monday, June 6, 1994 | Beaconsfield, CA

William H. Gauvin describes his education at McGill University, which culminated in both wartime work on RDX as well as several early electrochemistry papers. He next recounts his employment with Frank W. Horner Ltd. and the initiation and development of his lifelong spray drying work.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0099
No. of pages: 64
Minutes: 126

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
11 July 1991
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Abstract of Interview

William Gauvin begins with background information about his childhood experiences in Europe, his formative education, and his emigration during the Depression to join his family in Canada. He describes his education at McGill University, which culminated in both wartime work on RDX as well as several early electrochemistry papers. He next recounts his employment with Frank W. Horner Ltd. and the initiation and development of his lifelong spray drying work. Gauvin relates his recruitment to the Pulp and Paper Research Institute, his move to Noranda, and his associations with Hydro-Québec and other industrial research centers. While recounting the circumstances behind each of these professional “turning points,” he discusses the evolution of the chemical engineering department at McGill and the involvement of his graduate students at these research centers. Throughout the interview, he emphasizes the often difficult balance between research and management views on R&D, and between technical feasibility and economic feasibility of new technologies. Gauvin reviews his contributions to science policy, industry-academe cooperation, and government support for R&D. He concludes the interview with a consideration of chemical engineering in Canada today, and of the highlights of his own career in the field.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1941 McGill University BSE Chemical Engineering
1942 McGill University MS Chemical Engineering
1945 McGill University PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

McGill University

1942 to 1945
Lecturer, Department of Chemical Engineering
1947 to 1961
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
1961 to 1971
Research Associate, Department of Chemical Engineering
1971
Senior Research Associate, Department of Chemical Engineering

F. W. Horner Ltd.

1945 to 1947
Plant Superintendent

Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada

1951 to 1957
Consultant
1957 to 1961
Head, Chemical Engineering Division

Noranda Research Center

1961 to 1970
Research Manager
1982 to 1983
Director

Noranda Mines Ltd.

1970 to 1982
Director, Research and Development

National Research Council of Canada-Policy and Planning

1970 to 1971
Délégué-Général

Hydro-Quebec Research Institute

1983 to 1990
Scientific Advisor to Director

William H. Gauvin Technologies, Inc.

1983
President

Honors

Year(s) Award
1958

L. H. Weldon Medal, Canadian Pulp and Paper Association

1960 to 1961

Chemical Institute of Canada Awards

1963

R. S. Jane Award, Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering

1964

Senior Moulton Medal, Institution of Chemical Engineers of Great Britain

1966

Palladium Medal, Chemical Institute of Canada

1966

Médaille Archambault, ACFAS

1967

D Eng, Honoris Causa, Waterloo University

1968

Membre d'Honneur de la Société de Chimie Industrielle de France

1968

Best Paper Award, Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering

1969

Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Science

1970

Alcan Award, Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

1972

Distinguished Lecturer Award, Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

1973

Fellow, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1975

Companion of Order of Canada

1979

Gold Medal, Société d'Encouragement pour la Recherche et l'Invention, France

1981

Honorary Fellow, Institution of Chemical Engineers, United Kingdom

1982

Honorary Fellow, Chemical Institute of Canada

1982

Chemical Institute of Canada Award for best paper published in the Canadian Journal for Chemical Engineering 

1983

Montreal Medal, Chemical Institute of Canada

1983

D Sc, Honoris Causa, McGill University

1984

Jules Stackiewicz Award in Heat Transfer, Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering

1984

D Sc, Honoris Causa, Queen's University

1984

Prix Marie-Victorin (Prix des Sciences du Québec)

1985

Medal of the Canadian Research Management Association

1986

Thomas W. Eadie Medal, Royal Society of Canada

1986

D Sc, Honoris Causa, McMaster University

1986

Julian C. Smith Medal, Engineering Institute of Canada

1986

Founding Member, Canadian Academy of Engineering

1987

Foreign Member, National Academy of Engineering of the United States

1988

The Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Prize in Engineering

1988

Award for Innovation in Drying, Versailles, France (Sixth International Drying Symposium)

1989

Inaugural Lecturer, First Eugenie Lamothe Symposium, McGill University

Table of Contents

Family, Childhood and Early Education
1

Background of name William. World War I experiences. Move to England and Belgium. Grandfather in Brussels. Attends gymnasium; rigorous mathematical curriculum. Return to Paris and emigration to Canada. Proposal to bank to save father's company. Influence of Self-help.

Undergraduate and Graduate Education, and Early Professional Career
7

Asked to work on RDX rather than enlist. Ph.D. thesis. Father's business. Context of employment by Frank W. Horner Ltd. Impetus for lifelong spray drying work. Negotiates associate professor position, without salary, at McGill, with the proviso that work on spray drying applications continue. Concurrent work at Pulp and Paper Research Institute.

Noranda Research Center and McGill University
11

Offer from Noranda to create new research center from scratch. Noranda's reluctance about simultaneous McGill position. Joe Stovel. Gauvin's McGill undergraduate courses and graduate work. The atomized suspension technique (AST) process and introduction to plasmas. Evolution of McGill's chemical engineering department. Murray Douglas. Friendships with graduate students.

Pulp and Paper Research Institute
15

Development and influence on his life of spray drying work. Fluidization of bark and anecdote about recruitment to Pulp and Paper Research Institute. Lincoln R. Thiesmeyer. Develops AST to treat waste pulp liquors. Motivations behind move to Noranda.

Noranda Research Center
19

Noranda's Toronto research committee and agenda as position begins. Develops technique to assess R&D contribution to the company. Expansion of research projects. Patents plasma reactor design with Kubanek. Retirement. Contracts with Hydro-Québec and Industrial Materials Research Institute.

McGill Activities and Review of Education
22

McGill administration and current financial problems. Reasons for dual theses and Ph.D. in physical chemistry. Establishment of chemical engineering program at McGill. Carl Winkler. Work on electrochemical deposition of copper and industrial interest in the work.

Spray Drying and Miscellaneous Remarks
27

Initial spray drying design and subsequent study of significant design factors. Len Torobin and particle dynamics. Computers. Une passion: la SCIENCE. Inaugeral Lamothe Lecture. Purpose of oral history; Beckman Center interviews with chemical engineers. Spray dryer design; subsequent use by Horner.

Views and Influence on Government Support for Industry R&D
35

Oriented freedom in R&D. Paper on benefits to the government of industrial R&D support. Response to the paper. Promotes actions concertées. Involvement in quasi-governmental organizations. Appointed Délégué Général of National Research Council; difficulties of the job, and emphasis on fundamental research and motivation of people.

Science Council Report on Northern Development
40

Heads team on expedition to study industry of the North. Report recommendations. Example of the Lapps. Concerns of the northern peoples. Travelling for Noranda.

Noranda and R&D Difficulties
45

Initial connection with Noranda; Noranda since 1961. Titanium work and Noranda budget. Technical versus economic feasibility. Molybdenum project.

Plasma Processes
47

Davy McKee and other companies using plasma technology. Reasons for slow commercialization of this technology. Peat process and hindrances to application. Plasma torches. Toxic waste disposal and plasma technology.

Chemical Engineering in Canada
50

Current status of chemical engineering in Canada. Demographics of undergraduate student population at McGill. Reasons for high enrollment at University of Toronto. Graduate student population at McGill. Promotion of university-industry projects, and a current example.

Review of Career and Concluding Remarks
53

High point of career. Greatest satisfaction of career. Concluding comments on unusually strong industrial involvement coupled with concurrent thesis direction. Industry-academe cooperation intrinsically important to chemical engineering.

Notes
58
Index
60

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.