Department of Chemistry



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 Chemistry at Queen's

The first course in chemistry was offered in the Faculty of Medicine in 1854 (“The Non-metallic Elements and Their Compounds”), however the first academic appointment in chemistry was not until several years later, in 1858, when George Lawson was appointed Professor of Chemistry and of Natural History (botany, zoology, mineralogy and geology); this was only the fourth academic appointment at Queen’s. Four years later Lawson moved to Dalhousie and was replaced by Robert Bell. At that time relations between the University and the Faculty of Medicine were somewhat acrimonious, and in 1866 a separate medical college (the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Kingston) was incorporated; this college was in existence for 26 years before it was reincorporated into the University. In 1868 Dr. Bell became Professor of Geology; his replacement as Professor of Chemistry was Nathan F. Dupuis, who was to have a significant impact on the future of chemistry at Queen’s over the next 43 years.

Headshot of Nathan Dupuis professor of Chemistry from 1868 to 1881Nathan Dupuis was Professor of Chemistry from 1868 to 1881, at which point he became Professor of Mathematics. William L. Goodwin was Dupuis’ replacement as Professor of Chemistry; originally from New Brunswick, Goodwin had studied chemistry at Edinburgh, London, and Heidelberg (under Robert Bunsen). In 1893, engineering arrived at Queen’s with the opening of the School of Mines (W.L. Goodwin, Director) and the establishment of the Faculty of Practical Science (N.F. Dupuis, Dean), later the Faculty of Applied Science. In 1897, the program that was to become Engineering Chemistry was first offered, and chemistry was now being taught to students in three faculties – Arts, Medicine and Applied Science. This led to an increase in the number of academic appointments in Chemistry and, in 1911, construction of a building (Gordon Hall) dedicated solely to instruction in Chemistry was begun. Dupuis Hall is named after Professor Nathan Dupuis.


Headshot of William Goodwin Dupuis retired in 1911 and was replaced by William Goodwin as Dean of Applied Science; he subsequently retired in 1919. During their time at Queen’s, Dupuis and Goodwin had seen the Department grow to a complement of six academic appointments with a dedicated home for the Department of Chemistry; Professor Arthur C. Neish was appointed the inaugural Head of Department in 1919. Over the next 35 years the number of appointments remained static, while Gordon Hall was enlarged in 1946 with the addition of Gordon Annex. It was not until the 1950s and 60s that the Department underwent the next significant expansion, with the addition of the Frost Wing and an increase in faculty to over 25 full-time appointments. Today the Department maintains a similar complement of faculty, but in 2002 was moved to the vastly improved teaching and research facilities located in Chernoff Hall. Goodwin Hall is named after Professor William Goodwin.


“The Department of Chemistry, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario” Roy L. Dorrance, Journal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, August 1957,pp 560-566. Reproduced by permission of the Royal Society of Chemistry. (PDF, 1.2 MB)