Oral history interview with George W. Govier

Oral history interview with George W. Govier

  • 1997-May-07

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 B.A.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.

Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 29 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 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.

Physical location


Interviewee biographical information

  • June 15, 1917
  • Nanton, Alberta, Canada


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

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

Alberta. 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


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

Cite as

Govier, George W. (George Wheeler), interviewed by James G. Traynham in Calgary, Alberta on May 7, 1997. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0157. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/3484zh87j.

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PDF — 151 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

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads