The Montreal Massacre

Today is December 6th. In 1989, women were targeted, shot, and killed for being engineering students. Today is a day to honour women scientists and engineers living and working in Canada.

Fourteen women were killed and another ten women and four men injured during the attack at École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. Today is a day to rememberGeneviève Bergeron, a civil engineering student; Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Sonia Pelletier, Anne-Marie Lemay, and Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering students; Anne-Marie Edward, a chemical engineering student; Maud Haviernick, Maryse Leclair, Michèle Richard, and Annie Turcotte, materials engineering students; Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, a nursing student, andMaryse Laganière, a budget clerk at the university.

In Canada, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre is a national day of remembrance and action. Almost all these women died before they could complete their training, and before they could contribute to science and engineering in Canada. Instead of given attention to their killer, I chose to honour these women by sharing the stories of women who have had a chance to work. Here are a few women working in science and engineering in Canada:

Roberta Lynn Bondar is an astronaut from Sault Ste. Marie. She flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the first Canadian woman in space. She later co-anchored Discovery Channel coverage of launches, and current uses landscape photography to support her environmental advocacy charity.

Elizabeth Cannon is a geomatics engineer from Charlottetown. She developed developed satellite techniques using global positioning satellites, starting with techniques for precise positioning of aircraft using semi-kinematic differential GPS.

Dusanka Filipovic is a chemical engineer who emigrated from Yugoslavia. She is co-inventor of “Blue Bottle” technology to safely recovery halogenated hydrocarbon compounds for re-reuse.

Charlotte Fischer is a mathematician who emigrated from the Ukraine. She developed atomic structure models to successfully predict the existence of negative calcium ions.

Ursula Franklin is a metallurgiest who emigrated from Germany. She applied material science techniques to archeology, developing the field of archaeometry, and contributed to early efforts to track the impact of nuclear weapons testing fallout.

Charlotte Keen is a marine geophysicist from Halifax. She was the first woman to work a Geologic Survey of Canada research cruise (by smuggling aboard), going on to participate in the massive LITHOPROBE project to map Canada’s tectonic structure.

Geraldine Kenney-Wallace is a physicist who emigrated from England. She opened and operated the first ultrafast laser lab in a Canadian university, reaching time scales of 6 x 10-14 seconds for research on molecular motion and optoelectronics.

Cathleen Synge Morawetz is a mathematician from Toronto. Sheadvanced the field of nonlinear partial differential equations, leading to applications in acoustics, aerodynamics, and optics, including her improving aerodynamics of supersonic aircraft.

Julie Payette is an astronaut from Montreal. She flew on Space Shuttle Discovery for the first manual docking at the International Space Station, also becoming the first Canadian on the station. She returned on Space Shuttle Endeavour when 13 astronauts from 5 nationalities gathered at the station, marking the first time when two Canadians were in space.

Alice Payne is a mining geologist from Edmonton. She persisted in demanding access to field work for women. Despite laws barring her from underground site visits, she successfully advised mining operations for years.

Veena Rawat is an electrical engineer who emigrated from India. She worked in public service, advancing telecommunications and managing spectrum management.

Frances Wagner is a micropalaeontologist from Hamilton. She was one of the first women (along with Keen) permitted to do fieldwork with the Geologic Survey of Canada, going on to work on research cruises through the northwest passage.

Mary Anne White is a materials scientist from London (Ontario). She developed a new class of heat-absorbing materials with applications to absorbing waste heat, insulation, and heat storage.

This is just a handful of incredible women working in science and engineering in Canada.

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