Program History

The Killam Program was funded through the generous contribution of Mrs. Dorothy J. Killam, in honour of the memory and exceptional achievements of her husband, Izaak Walton Killam.

The Program’s awards are part of a larger set of Killam Trusts, which fund scholarship and research at four Canadian universities, a neurological research and clinical institute and the Canada Council. In total, the Killam Trusts are valued at approximately $425 million, of which the Canada Council portion is $55 million.

Quote

My purpose in establishing the Killam Trusts is to help in the building of Canada’s future by encouraging advanced study. Thereby I hope, in some measure, to increase the scientific and scholastic attainments of Canadians, to develop and expand the work of Canadian universities, and to promote sympathetic understanding between Canadians and the peoples of other countries.

From the Will of Dorothy J. Killam, who died 27 July 1965

Timeline

The Killam Program was established in 1967, with the creation of the Killam Research Fellowships, and the Killam Prizes were inaugurated in 1981.

1967 !

Killam Research Fellowships are created

With the creation of the fellowships, scholars receive 2 years to pursue their groundbreaking work. Since then, most scholars surveyed credit the fellowships as being integral to their careers.

1967
Cranford Pratt

1st fellowship winner shapes foreign policy

Cranford Pratt: Social Sciences

His social policy work shaped Canada’s foreign policy towards Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.

1968
Colette Carisse

1st female fellowship winner influences bilingualism policy

Colette Carisse: Social Sciences

Her research on family and women was consulted by the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

Photo: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal / Sociologie et sociétés, vol. 40, no 1, 2008

1972
David Suzuki

David Suzuki wins Killam Fellowship

David Suzuki: Natural Sciences

He studied communications and genetics and is now one of Canada’s best-known scientists and activists, translating complex info for TV audiences.

Photo: David Suzuki Foundation

1977
Book

Controversial biographer of cultural icons wins fellowship

Phyllis Grosskurth: Humanities

The first female English prof at University of Toronto, her work explored personal stories of Melanie Klein, Lord Byron and John Addington Symonds. She was also a recipient of a Governor General’s Literary Award (1964).

1979
1981 !

Killam Prizes are created

With the creation of these prizes, leading researchers are recognized for their discoveries which are improving our health, preserving our environment, exploring our culture, pioneering new horizons, and much more.

1981
DNA

Geneticist is recognized for cancer research

Louis Siminovitch: Health Sciences

His work, which earned him a Killam Prize, has led to major discoveries about the role of genetics in muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, virus genetics and cancer.

1981
Bletchley Park

Military code breaker wins prize

William Tutte: Natural Sciences

He deciphered German code at Bletchley Park (made famous by the film The Imitation Game) and is world-renowned for his work on Matroid Theory.

1982
Charles Taylor

“Brains behind Canadian multiculturalism” wins fellowship

Charles Taylor: Humanities

Known as one of the world’s greatest thinkers, he helped found the NDP party. His work endorsed multiculturalism and combatted xenophobia.

1982
Brenda Milner

1st woman Killam Prize winner pioneers brain research

Brenda Milner: Health Sciences

One of the pre-eminent neuroscientists of our times, she helped discover how the brain processes cognitive learning, language, sensations and emotions.

Photo: Owen Egan

1983
Fraser Mustard

Prize winner discovers role of Aspirin in preventing heart attack and stroke

James Fraser Mustard: Health Sciences

He discovered the role of acetylsalicylic acid in preventing of heart attack/stroke and the role of platelets in the coagulation of blood.

Photo: Archives of Hamilton Health Sciences and the Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University

1987
John C.  Polanyi

Before he won a Killam – he won the Nobel

John C. Polanyi: Natural Sciences

This Nobel Prize winner founded the field of reaction dynamics and created the most powerful sources of infrared radiation ever developed.

Photo: Steven Frost

1988
Skyscrapers

Engineer’s studies lead to safer skyscrapers

Allan G. Davenport: Engineering

His research on the impact of wind tunnels, earthquake loading and environmental loads, and structural dynamics have made skyscrapers, like the CN Tower & World Exchange Centre, safer.

1993
Martha Salcudean

Leading engineer is recognized

Martha Salcudean: Engineering

This prize winner, renowned for her work in fluid dynamics and heat transfer, was the 1st female head of the engineering department at UBC.

1998
Pollutants

Prize honours scientist who discovered impact of acid rain

David Schindler: Natural Sciences

He identified pollutants killing lakes and fish in the 1960s, and now advocates for regulation and environmental policy around Alberta's oil sands.

2003
Constance Backhouse

Law prof. wins for her work on gender and race discrimination

Constance Backhouse: Social Sciences

This legal scholar and historian won a prize for a career dedicated to consulting, mediating, and adjudicating cases of sexual abuse and violence against women and children.

2008
Victoria Kaspi

Astrophysicist recognized for discoveries on neutron stars

Victoria Kaspi: Natural Sciences

Her research on neutron stars sheds light on the nature of matter under extraordinary circumstances; she discovered the second magnetar in our galaxy — a rare star with a colossal magnetic field.

2015
2017 !

Killam Program celebrates 50 years

50 years after the Program was created, it has supported and honoured some 700 leading scholars who, through their discoveries, are building Canada’s future.

2017
Arrow Design

Past Recipients

View a list of the exceptional scholars who have been honoured by the Killam Program since 1967.

Download a spreadsheet listing past recipients

For more information about the Killam Trusts, visit www.killamlaureates.ca.

Killam Laureates