Edgar William Richard Steacie

Edgar William Richard Steacie, physical chemist, scientist-statesman (b at Westmount, Qué 25 Dec 1900; d at Ottawa 28 Aug 1962). Steacie was an internationally acclaimed research authority in free radical kinetics and, as a senior administrator at the NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL, was influential in increasing Canada's capabilities in scientific research in both government and the universities. Steacie followed the military tradition of his father, Capt Richard Steacie, by enrolling in RMC in 1919. Not finding this life to his liking, he transferred to Chemical Engineering at McGill in 1920. There he was strongly influenced by the distinguished physical chemist, Dr Otto MAASS. As a result, after completing his engineering degree in 1923, he began graduate work in physical chemistry. Steacie took his PhD in 1926 at McGill, remaining there as a research fellow in physical chemistry. In 1930 he became assistant professor and began his pioneering research studies in free radical kinetics, the measurement of the rates of chemical reactions and the determination of the mechanisms of such processes. In 1939 he was appointed director of the Chemistry Division of NRC, which under his leadership became an international centre for chemical research. By 1944 Steacie was an obvious choice for deputy director under Sir John Cockcroft of the joint British-Canadian Atomic Energy Project. Steacie's major treatise, Atomic and Free Radical Reactions (1946), rapidly became the essential reference in its field.

He was appointed vice-president (scientific) of NRC in 1950 and became president in 1952. Through his efforts, many distinguished scientists were appointed to the NRC staff, including Gerhard HERZBERG. Steacie also persuaded the federal government to provide more support to universities for scientific research. Instrumental in upgrading industrial research as well, he obtained special tax concessions to assist companies in financing research, and through his efforts a new program of federal research grants was initiated to support innovative industrial research. For his outstanding contributions to both science and scientific administration, Steacie received numerous honours and recognitions from the national and international scientific communities, culminating in 1961 with his election as the first Canadian president of the International Council of Scientific Unions. Steacie not only laid the foundation for the development of Canadian science but also pioneered the government support structure necessary to promote those research industries that represent the growth points of modern industrial technology.