Donald Geoffrey Hurst
1911 - 1999


Donald G. Hurst, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (McGill), F.R.S.C., was born in St. Austell, Cornwall, England, on March 19, 1911.   He and his family emigrated to Canada the following year, living in several Ontario communities, then in Buckingham, Québec (northeast of Ottawa) and finally Montréal.   Dr. Hurst attended McGill University in Montréal, where he obtained a B.Sc., M.Sc. and, in 1936, his Ph.D. in physics.   He did post doctoral research at the University of California and Cambridge University, then joined the National Research Council of Canada, in Ottawa, in 1939.

In 1944 Dr. Hurst moved to the Montréal Laboratory (operated by the NRC), then to Chalk River in 1945, when the Montréal Laboratory moved to the new Chalk River Laboratory (~200 km up the Ottawa River from Ottawa).   There he was section head of the Neutron Spectrometer section and mentor to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Bertram Brockhouse.   With Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (which took over the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory when the company was created in 1952), Dr. Hurst was appointed Assistant Director, Reactor Research and Development, in 1955, and Director in 1961.

In 1967, he became Director of Applied Research and Development.   On leave from that position he served two years as Director of the Division of Nuclear Power at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA - an agency of the United Nations) in Vienna.   In 1970 he was appointed President of the Atomic Energy Control Board, the regulator of all civilian radiation matters in Canada.

Dr. Hurst officially retired from the AECB in 1974, and was appointed chairman of the Senior Advisory Group of the IAEA.   From then until 1985 he oversaw the development of the large set of nuclear safety standards (NUSS).   He also served as Executive Director of the Royal Society of Canada from 1975 to 1977, and honourary executive director until 1985.

In 1987, Dr. Hurst was an advisor to the Ontario Nuclear Safety Review (chaired by Dr. Kenneth Hare) and from 1990 to 1995 he was a member of the Technical Advisory Panel on Nuclear Safety, which reported to the president of Ontario Hydro (now Ontario Power Generation).   In the early 1990's Dr. Hurst convinced AECL management to support the preparation of a technical history of AECL to complement the (largely) political history "Nucleus" by Robert Bothwell.   With the collaboration of 15 other retirees, the book "Canada Enters the Nuclear Age - A Technical History of Atomic Energy of Canada" (McGill-Queen's University Press) was produced, and was launched in June 1997.

Dr. Hurst received the Canadian Nuclear Association's Outstanding Contribution Award in 1990, and the prestigious W.B. Lewis Medal in 1996.   He received the American Nuclear Society's Tommy Thompson Award in 1994, for outstanding contributions to nuclear safety.   He was also a long time member and supporter of the Canadian Nuclear Society.

Dr. Hurst died suddenly on Wednesday October 6, 1999, at the age of 88.   He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Dorothy, and by children Dorothy (Wellington, N.Z.) and David (Toronto), and grandchildren.   A funeral service was held in the Deep River Community Church, of which he was a member, on October 12, 1999, with many former senior members of the Canadian nuclear community in attendance.   He was remembered as an excellent scientist, mentor to many, an intelligent administrator, a diplomat, and a very human but private person.

Sources: Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin Volume 20 No 3, October 1999
                 Canada Enters the Nuclear Age - A Technical History of Atomic Energy of Canada

Additional information on Don Hurst may be found here, on the web site of the Canadian Association of Physicists.

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