George W. Govier

Born: June 15, 1917 | Nanton, AB, CA

George Govier received his ScD in chemical engineering in 1949. In 1948, Govier became the head of the University of Alberta's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and was instrumental in developing the program there. Eleven years later, he accepted the position of dean of the Faculty of Engineering, a position which he held until his departure from the University of Alberta. Govier then became the chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, an organization in which he had been active since 1948.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0157
No. of pages: 29
Minutes: 125

Interview Sessions

James G. Traynham
7 May 1997
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Abstract of Interview

George Govier begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and youth. Govier grew up in Canada, the son of a business owner. While in high school, he developed a strong interest in chemistry, mathematics, and physics, and decided to pursue chemical engineering because it combined many of these interests. Govier attended the University of British Columbia, where he earned his BA Sc in chemical engineering in 1939. After graduation, he accepted a position with Standard Oil of British Columbia. A year later, he became an instructor at the University of Alberta, and began his graduate studies, receiving his M Sc in physical chemistry in 1945. As he had summers off from teaching, Govier took short-term positions with Standard Oil, the Aluminum Company of Canada, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board. During this time, he also took a brief leave from the University of Alberta to pursue his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan; he received his Sc D in chemical engineering in 1949. In 1948, Govier became the head of the University of Alberta's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and was instrumental in developing the program there. Eleven years later, he accepted the position of dean of the Faculty of Engineering, a position which he held until his departure from the University of Alberta. Govier then became the chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, an organization in which he had been active since 1948. He discusses the activities of the board, his involvement in various professional organizations, and his consulting experiences. Govier concludes the interview with his thoughts on the future of the petroleum industry in North America.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1939 University of British Columbia BA Sc Chemical Engineering
1945 University of Alberta M Sc Physical Chemistry
1949 University of Michigan Sc D Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Standard Oil Company

1939 to 1940
Plant Operator
1941
Office Engineer
1940
Consultant

University of Alberta

1940 to 1942
Lecturer
1942 to 1948
Assistant Professor
1948 to 1963
Professor
1948 to 1959
Head, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
1949 to 1963
Dean, Faculty of Engineering

Aluminum Company of Canada

1942
Design Engineer

Oil and Gas Conservation Board

1945
Special Studies Engineer

Energy Resources Conservation Board

1948 to 1959
Member
1949 to 1962
Deputy Chairman
1962 to 1975
Chairman
1977 to 1978
Chairman

University of Calgary

1963 to 1975
Professor

Petroleum Recovery Institute

1966 to 1979
Board of Directors
1976 to 1979
Vice-President

Alberta Helium Limited

1973 to 1990
Chairman, Board of Directors
1985 to 1990
Managing Director

Department of Energy and Natural Resources (Canada)

1975 to 1977
Chief DeputyMinister

Coal Mining Research Centre

1977 to 1978
Chairman, Policy Committee
1978 to 1979
Vice-President

Govier Consulting Services Ltd

1978
President

Honors

Year(s) Award
1964

R. S. Jane Memorial Award, Chemical Institute of Canada

1964

Award of Merit, Canadian Natural Gas Processing Association

1967

Sesquicentennial Award, University of Michigan

1967

Centennial Medal of Canada

1970

Centennial Award, Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta

1971

Selwyn G. Blaylock Medal, Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

1976

Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Calgary

1976

Gold Medal, Canadian Council of Professional Engineers

1976

Achievement Award, Government of Alberta

1978

Named Oil Man of the Year by Oilweek Magazine

1981

Doctor of Science, honoris causa, McGill University

1985

Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa, University of Waterloo

1986

Distinguished Services Medal, Petroleum Society of CIM

1987

Sir John Kennedy Medal, The Engineering Institute of Canada

1989

Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal, Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME

1992

Half Century of Membership Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

Table of Contents

Family Background and Youth
1

Growing up in Canada. Father's businesses. Early interest in science. Attraction to chemical engineering.

College Education and Early Career
2

Attending University of British Columbia. Position with Standard Oil of British Columbia. Teaching at University of Alberta. Beginning graduate studies. Summer jobs at Standard Oil, Aluminum Company of Canada.

University of Michigan
5

Taking a leave from the University of Alberta. Influence of work of George Granger Brown and Donald Katz. Doctoral studies.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board
6

Invitation to join. Working with Ian McKinnon. Correlative rights.

University of Alberta
9

Becoming dean of the engineering faculty. Expansion of faculty. Establishment of University of Calgary.

After Academia
11

Leaving academic world. Becoming chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board. Consulting for Royal Bank of Canada. Focus on petroleum engineering.

Professional Activities
16

Involvement in Chemical Institute of Canada, Association of Professional Engineers, World Petroleum Congress. Serving on board of directors for Texaco Canada, Inc. , Stone & Webster, Raylo Chemicals, etc. Involvement in CIDA.

Concluding Thoughts
20

Future of petroleum industry in North America. Publishing a textbook. Wife and daughters.

Notes
24
Index
26

About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.