Leon Katz General Physics, Subatomic Particles, Optics, Biophysics, Theoretical Physics

Founding father of nuclear science in Saskatchewan

The Story

In 1914, Leon Katz’s father emigrated to Canada, hoping to save money and bring his wife and three children later. But the war in Europe and the Russian Revolution delayed the family’s reunion until 1920. Finally, when the family met again in Toronto, Leon Katz started elementary school, which he had not attended sooner because of the war.

Leon Katz went to Toronto's Central Technical School to become an electrician. That school ran an experimental program with Queen’s University that allowed five students a year to continue with university-based science education. Leon Katz was the one of lucky ones to attend this program. However, his family’s financial situation forced him to combine his education with work in a battery factory for nine years. Eventually, he continued his education at the California Institute of Technology on the smallest available scholarship.

After his graduation, Dr. Katz worked for Westinghouse Corp in Pittsburgh, developing radar equipment for aircraft. In 1946, The University of Saskatchewan recruited Dr. Katz as Associate Professor of Physics. Dr. Katz’s first accomplishment was the use of the university betatron, that produced radiation for cancer treatment, for research on the interior structure of the atomic nucleus.

Further, Dr. Katz succeeded in persuading the National Research Council and Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas to construct a linear accelerator LINAC. In 1962, the Linear Accelerator Laboratory was opened, and Dr. Katz became its director in 1964.

The LINAC was one of several such accelerators in the world. Dr. Katz recruited physicists who could advance research in the properties of the atomic nucleus. The University of Saskatchewan became a nationally and internationally recognized facility for sub-atomic physics. Dr. Katz stayed with the University for another ten years.

In 1975 - 76, Dr. Katz served as Director of the Saskatchewan Science Council, after that he retired.

In 1999, the University of Saskatchewan housed the Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron. In November of 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien cut the ribbon to CLS’s boardroom named in Leon Katz’s honour.

Dr. Katz worked until his last days, researching and writing. He authored more than 50 scientific papers on thermodynamics, chaos theory, and radar.


In Memoriam Dr. Katz’s obituary as it appeared in The Glove and Mail, March 09, 2004

Leon Katz, a founding father of Sask. nuclear science, passes away Dr. Katz’s colleagues and sons recall his achievements and personality traits

Administrative History/Biographical Sketch, Archives Canada

Image: CBC News

The Person

August 9, 1909
Lutsk, Poland
Date of Death
March 1, 2004
Family Members
  • Wife: Georgina
  • Son: Sylvan
  • Son: Zender
  • Son: David
  • Daughter: Faye
Professor Emeritus in Nuclear Physics
  • B.Sc., 1934
  • M.Sc., 1937
  • (Electrical Engineering) Queen’s University
  • PhD, California Institute of Technology, 1942
  • LLD, Honorary Degree, University of Saskatchewan, 1990
  • Order of Canada, Officer, 1974
  • Royal Society of Canada, Fellow, 1952
Last Updated
August 10, 2005

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