Oral history interview with William H. Gauvin

Oral history interview with William H. Gauvin

  • 1991-Jul-11

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-Quebec 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.

Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 64 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

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.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • March 30, 1913
  • Paris, France
  • June 06, 1994
  • Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada


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 Limited

  • 1970 to 1982 Director, Research and Development

National Research Council of Canada-Policy and Planning

  • 1970 to 1971 Délégué-Général

Institut de recherche de l'Hydro-Québec

  • 1983 to 1990 Scientific Advisor to Director

William H. Gauvin Technologies, Inc.

  • 1983 President


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

Cite as

William H. Gauvin, interviewed by James J. Bohning in Montréal, Québec on July 11, 1991. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0099. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/1z40kt72h.

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PDF — 254 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

5 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads