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 over $500 million, of which the Canada Council portion is $70 million.

Discover “How the Killam Family ‘Invented’ Canadian culture” on CBC’s Ideas.

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 on 27 July 1965


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 can now receive funding to devote two years to pursuing their groundbreaking work. Since then, most scholars surveyed have credited the Fellowships as being integral to their careers.

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.

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

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 information into digestible pieces for TV audiences.

Photo: David Suzuki Foundation


Controversial biographer of cultural icons wins Fellowship

Phyllis Grosskurth: Humanities

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

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.


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.

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.

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.

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

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 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

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


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.

Martha Salcudean

Leading engineer is recognized

Martha Salcudean: Engineering

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


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.

Constance Backhouse

Law professor 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.

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.

2017 !

Killam Program celebrates 50 years

In its 50 years of existence, the Program has supported and honoured some 700 leading scholars who, through their discoveries, are building Canada’s future.

Yoshua Timeline Image

A double victory for artificial intelligence specialist

Yoshua Bengio: Natural Sciences

He wins the Killam Prize and the Turing Prize, considered the “Nobel” for work in artificial intelligence.

2020 Timeline Image

A banner year for women

A significant year in the history of the Killam Program as it recognizes and celebrates a record number of women scholars.

Arrow Design

Past Recipients

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

Download a listing of past recipients