Accomplishments & Discoveries

The University of Toronto was established by royal charter in 1827 during the reign of King George. Almost 100 years later, the School of Graduate Studies became a distinct academic division within the university. Since then, our thinking-forward approach to academic research and discovery has helped us make a huge impact on science, the humanities, and more. Here are some highlights:

1903: Clara Benson’s is one of the first two women to earn a PhD (in Chemistry). Her thesis is on “The Rates of the Reactions in Solutions Containing Ferrous Sulphate, Potassium Iodide, and Chromic Acid.”

1908: Charles Wright graduates. During WWI he invents the “trench wireless,” followed by the development of radar in WWII.​

1913: Maud Lenora Menten is one of the first Canadian women to receive a medical degree, and goes on to make enormous discoveries in biochemistry, protein behaviour, as well as blood sugar, hemoglobin, and kidney functions.​

1921: Banting and Best publish their discovery of insulin. In 1923, Banting and Macleod receive the Nobel Prize.

1929: Medical graduate Davidson Black discovers the skull of “Peking Man,” an important clue to the nature of humanity’s ancestors.

1930: The infant cereal “Pablum” is developed and announced by Frederick Tisdall, Theodore Drake, and Alan Brown of the Faculty of Medicine.

1938: A team of researchers led by Eli Franklin Burton, Department of Physics, builds the first electron microscope in North America.

1948: W.G. Bigelow of the Faculty of Medicine begins his studies. He would go on to help design the first electrical cardiac pacemaker.

1957: English professor Northrop Frye publishes Anatomy of Criticism, establishing him as one of the world’s leading literary critics.

1964: Marshall McLuhan publishes Understanding Media and becomes internationally known for his studies of the effects of mass media on thought and behaviour.

1984: Ursula Franklin joins U of T as the first woman to receive the title “University Professor.” Her research led to the ban of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s. In 2012, she would get inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

1986: John C. Polanyi, Professor of Chemistry since 1962, is awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on infrared chemiluminescence.

1989: George Alexander Patterson performs the first double lung transpl​ant.

1995: A research team led by Peter St. George-Hyslop, Director of the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases, discovers two genes responsible for early-onset Alzheimer’s.

2005: Stem cell pioneers Ernest McCulloch and James Till win the prestigious Lasker Award for their discovery of the hemopoietic stem cell in 1961. Conducted at U of T and the Ontario Cancer Institute, the work formed the basis for bone marrow transplantation.

2007: Cast Connex is formed by Prof. Jeffrey Packer and his civil engineering team. The customized cast steel structural components are introduced internationally to earthquake-proof skyscrapes.

2012: Alex Levy is named Canada’s Top Entrepreneur for MyVoice, a low-cost, state-of-the-art application that gives voice to people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, muscular dystrophy, as well as strokes, ALS, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Learn more about research and innovation at U of T.