Honorary Degree Citation - Donald Olding Hebb*

by Jane Stewart, November 1975

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Donald Olding Hebb, eminent scientist, creative thinker, and memorable teacher. Here is a man who through his skillful experiments on several species, including the rat, the chimpanzee, and man, has greatly advanced knowledge about human emotion and intellect, and has helped to clarify thinking about the relation between brain and mind. The publication, in 1949, of his monograph, The Organization of Behavior exerted an extraordinary influence on workers in the behavioral and neurological sciences; no area of psychology has remained untouched by his ideas.

Whether the origins of his genius lie in the contemplation permitted to him while sailing alone on Mahone Bay, or in the native Nova Scotian distaste for sophistry, may forever remain an enigma. What is evident is that he stands apart, free from the clutches of noisy fashion and genial simplification, to find in the ordinary, and in the familiar, the essence of an unsolved problem. It is this that jolts his students and brings them, astonished, to the realization that little in this world is truly understood. His deep commitment to the search for fundamental truths, his restless imagination, and meticulous concern for the process of clear writing, have characterized his remarkable contributions to science and to life in the university. How fitting that such a scholar served as Chancellor of his own university, McGill!

And now, Mr. Vice Chancellor, on behalf of the University Senate, and by authority of the Board of Governors, I present to you, Donald Olding Hebb, so that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased