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.
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.1967
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.
Read the Globe and Mail article1968
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 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).
Read the Globe and Mail article1979
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
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.
Read the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame article1981
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
“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
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
Watch the McGill University video1983
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
Read the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame article1987
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.
Read the New York Times article1993
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.1998
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
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.
Listen to her CBC interview on the Jian Ghomeshi trial2008
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
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.2017
Five Killam Prize winners collaborate across disciplines
The 2018 Killam Prize winners collaborated on an interdisciplinary enquiry into the common theme of rhythm and organized a conference, Aux sources du rythme.2018
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.2019
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.2020
View a list of the exceptional scholars who have been honoured by the Killam Program since 1967.