Raymond N. Yong
World’s authority on contaminated soils and their mitigation
Raymond Yong, one of three children, was raised in Singapore and Malaysia. His father was the Principal of a Methodist Missionary English School and also taught Mathematics and Latin. His mother was a housewife.
In 1947, Raymond Yong traveled to the United States to study through the invitation of his godfather Rev. Raymond D. Roche, a Methodist missionary. Yong entered Washington and Jefferson College in Washington D.C. as a pre-medical student, but switched to a major in Mathematics and a minor in Physics after the first semester.
During his studies at the college, Yong stayed with Rev. Roche and his family. Rev. Roche’s family valued education and service; their attitude influenced Yong and helped in forming his education and career path.
While working in US industry from 1954 to 1956, Yong realized that his academic training was not enough to answer his questions about the application of engineering science to standard practice. He felt that he needed to continue his education. Yong chose McGill University because it offered a position as a Lecturer and opportunities for post-graduate studies and research.
However, Yong remained at the university after the formal completion of his degrees. He carried on his research into engineering materials. Particularly, he was interested in the physico-chemical properties of natural soils because it was important to understand how these materials were formed in nature and how they responded to their environment. Yong applied his knowledge in material science to the study of soils.
In 1975, Yong became Director of the Geotechnical Research Centre at McGill. His group provided basic and applied research in the area of earth and earth-associated sciences to industrial problems.
Yong also developed a new post-graduate Diploma program in Waste Generation and Control. It provided training for engineers, environmentalists, and other scientists and legislators concerned with the waste contamination of groundwater.
In addition to his research and teaching, Yong collaborated with industry. His projects included the tar sands, crude oil delivery from Prudhoe Bay, land disposal of hazardous waste, and high level nuclear waste disposal. He worked with local specialists and governments in developing countries on problems of waste management, water and groundwater quality, and land reclamation. He obtained more than 60 patents, published over 400 technical papers and 4 textbooks, and edited 9 other books.
In 1996, Yong retired from McGill, moved to British Columbia, and continued consulting through the International Development and Research Centre, Canada, and the Geoenvironmental Research Centre, Cardiff University.
“Raymond N. Yong: Killam Laureate, 1985” in In celebration of Canadian scientists : a decade of Killam laureates Ed. Kenney-Wallace, G.A., MacLeod, M.G., Stanton, R.G.
Image: Geoenvironmental Research Centre, Cardiff University