Honorary Degree Citation - Donald C. MacPhail

by T.S. Sankar, June 1979

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Donald C. MacPhail, renowned Canadian Mechanical Engineer.

Born in Vancouver, Dr. MacPhail received his early education in British Columbia and graduated from U.B.C. in 1937 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He proceeded to the California Institute of Technology on a Carnegie Corporation Scholarship and was awarded the M.S. degree in 1938 for research in hydrodynamics. In the same year he was awarded Exhibition of 1851 Overseas Scholarship and went to Kings College, Cambridge University, where he worked for two years in the laboratory of Sir Geoffrey Taylor on aerodynamic turbulence. In 1940 he joined the Ministry of Supply to undertake urgent war work and later in 1942 he was granted a Ph.D. from Cambridge.

Dr. MacPhail's professional career began in 1940 at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, where he was involved in design and construction of new variable pressure spinning and supersonic Aerodynamics. He set in motion the first transonic wind tunnels and associated gas turbine power station; This installation, designed for what subsequently became the Concorde aircraft, formed part of the basis of nuclear reactor pressure vessel and marine gas turbine machinery design. In 1947 he was appointed Head of the Supersonics Division, R.A.E., Bedford, a position he relinquished to return to Canada to join the Mechanical Engineering Division of the National Research Council in 1948 as Head of Gas Dynamics Section, and the following year he was appointed Assistant Director of the Division. Under his direction, the work of the Gas Dynamics group was expanded to include the field of Supersonic Aerodynamics. He set in motion the first transonic and supersonic tunnels in Canada as well as compressor and exhauster equipment for use in the aeronautical industry and gas turbine development.

In the two decades since he was appointed Director of the Mechanical Engineering Division in 1957, Dr. f1acPhail expanded the Division's activities. Major studies of national importance included components of the St. Lawrence Seaway, improvements to the navigational route from Montréal to Québec, new harbours in Newfoundland to support that province's needs as a recent member of Confederation and the development of new types of breakwaters with a world wide application. Under Dr. MacPhail's direction the Mechanical Engineering Division has developed into a major centre of Mechanical Engineering Research, recognized not only throughout Canada but in advanced countries of the world for its contributions in many technical fields.

In the international arena he has supported and contributed to the coordination of aeronautical research and was a founding member of the Commonwealth Advisory Aeronautical Research Council. Through personal drive and dedication he has maintained an intimate and effective working relationship among the Commonwealth aeronautical research institutions that would otherwise not have been achieved. He is a Fellow and past president of Canadian Aeronautics & Space Institute, and he is also a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society of Great Britain.

Mr. Chancellor, I am honoured to present to you, on behalf of the University Senate, and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Donald MacPhail, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor Laws, honoris causa.