William-Henry (Bill) Gauvin Chemical Engineering

Pioneer in the field of thermal plasma systems.

The Story

Bill Gauvin attended school in London, Paris and Brussels, before moving to Canada to enter university at McGill. After completing his Ph.D., he worked for two years in industry, returning to McGill in 1946 as an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering. He retained his ties with industry, acting as consultant to the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, and heading up its Chemical Engineering Division in 1957. Gauvin's most well-known invention was the Atomized Suspension Technique, by which a high temperature spray system pyrolizes (vaporizes) waste from pulp and paper processing.

While at McGill, Gauvin attracted many Ph.D. students, with whom he undertook studies of high-temperature gas-solid systems, and the mechanisms and reactions which occur in their formation. His work on thermal, plasma jets, especially in metallurgical applications, is considered pioneering. Gauvin coauthored over 190 technical papers in the fields of electrochemistry, high temperature heat and mass transfer, fluid mechanics, and plasma technology, and holds several patents. A fondly remembered teacher, Gauvin turned 80 the same year his 29th Ph.D. student graduated, in 1992.

Gauvin continued his close association with industry. In 1961, he founded the Noranda Research Centre in Montréal, later becoming research manager and eventually director of research and development. He was an active member of nineteen professional societies in the fields of chemical engineering, pulp and paper, and metallurgy, serving as president of many of them. He also served on the National Research Council of Canada, the Science Council of Canada, le Conseil de la Politique Scientifique du Québec, Hydro Québec's Institut de Récherche en Energie, Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety and the Industrial Materials Research Institute of the NRC. In these roles he helped shape scientific policy in Canada from the early 1960s on.

Sources: Prix de Quebec Lauréates; Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Vol 8 pg 108-111 (1996), written by Terrence W. Hoffman, The McGill Chemical Engineering story.

Photo by Daniel Lessard (Prix de Quebec Lauréates).

The Person

March 30, 1913
Paris, France
Date of Death
June 6, 1994
Place of Death
Beaconsfield, Québec
Dedicated, enthusiastic and professional, with a keen desire to learn.
  • BEng, McGill University, 1941
  • MEng, McGill, 1942
  • PhD (Physical Chemistry), McGill, 1944
  • Killam Prize (Canada Council for the Arts), 1988
  • Founding Member, Canadian Academy of Engineering, 1986
  • Julian C Smith Medal (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), 1986
  • Marie-Victorin Prize (Prix de Quebec), 1984
  • Gold medal (Société d'encouragement pour la recherche et l'invention de la France), 1979
  • Companion of the Order of Canada, 1975
  • Senior-Moulton Medal (Institute of Chemical Engineers of Great Britain), 1964
Last Updated
December 28, 2011

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