During a government career that spanned nearly the whole of the Cold War, George Lindsey gained a reputation as a leading defence scientist and military strategist for Canada’s Defence Research Board. Having influenced Canadian policy in such important areas as air defence, anti-submarine warfare, and the militarization of space, Lindsey’s writings spanning his career with the Department of National Defence, shed light not only on one of Canada’s most influential civil servants of the Cold War era, but also on the inner-workings of the Canadian defence department during the nuclear age.
I compiled and edited this book. The volume provides full access to a wealth of valuable, previously classified, historical material regarding the scientific and technical aspects of Canadian defence and national security in the Cold War. Lindsey’s writings clarify Canada’s approach to the strategic issues of the nuclear age, while his first-hand experience is valuable for understanding the role and structure of the postwar Canadian defence establishment.
Between 1947 and 1954, medical scientists in Canada received support from federal and independent agencies to conduct a series of comparative biochemical studies on Inuit and white “test subjects.” Originally conceived from a racialized intrigue in defining the vascular characteristics of cold tolerance, the Canadian defence establishment absorbed the research with the intent to apply the findings to military service in the North. Potentially unlocking the “Eskimo” secret to cold-weather acclimatization meant scientists could devise a screening process for selecting male white bodies for Arctic service. The research took place within the edifice of colonial science, but unlike wider postwar perceptions of the Indigenous body, this article presents the concept of biological appropriation to explore the perceived value of Inuit physiology to northern defence. Interpreting experiential research on Inuit as distinct from cultural assimilation provides a broader interpretation of postwar Arctic policy, and helps discern an understudied yet important episode of the Cold War sciences in Canada.
Between 1947 and 1953, leading scientists at Canada’s Defence Research Board (DRB) administered physiological and psychological experiments on soldiers conducting indoctrination training for Arctic warfare. Designed in an attempt to determine the ideal characteristics of cold-weather soldiery, one experiment resulted in physical and mental injury to two participating troops. Although the army immediately questioned its participation in further DRB testing because of the sustained injuries, ethical issues of human testing seemed not to deeply penetrate military and defence discourse concerning the involvement of troops in acclimatisation research and indoctrination training. This article examines cold-weather human testing to argue that the development of Cold War soldiery in Canada conformed to superficial gender ideals about virile masculinity in the early postwar period.
Science and Military Sponsorship
While my doctoral research broached important issues in Cold War and Arctic studies, I have begun a new and exciting research project that will explore uncharted territory concerning the history of science and technology in postwar Canada. My research suggests deep financial ties among state, industrial and academic partners in Canada during the earliest decades of the Cold War. This relationship has been called the ‘military-industrial complex’ in American historical scholarship. Historians of Canada have yet to examine this theme in a Canadian context, so I intend to research the militarization of science in Canada during the Cold War. My research will focus on the academic sciences to uncover the influence of military sponsorship on university research projects in Canada.
Medical Scientist Alan C. Burton and Military Experimentation in Cold War Canada
I am conducting a historical research project on the military-sponsored research activities of medical scientist Dr. Alan C. Burton, who founded the Department of Biophysics at the University of Western Ontario in 1947. During a long and distinguished academic career, Burton worked on contract for the Defence Research Board. He devised a special laboratory at Western and conducted a series of experiments to understand heat loss in the human body. The Canadian military was active in northern Canada during the 1950s and 1960s, and Burton’s research in environmental physiology was designed to provide knowledge useful for training soldiers to withstand the cold and harsh climatic conditions of sub-Arctic and Arctic Canada during this significant period in world affairs.
Burton’s work for the Defence Research Board is important because it demonstrates the entangled histories of military funding and medical science in Cold War Canada. His experimental work conformed to a military agenda that was unrelated to the civilian applications of his research, but the decision to conduct research for the Canadian armed services was his alone. He accepted military research funding to pursue his scientific curiosities and further his professional career. Did Cold War security anxieties place pressure on Burton, or was research funding the deciding factor? Why did he contribute to the Defence Research Board for eighteen years, and how did his experimental work affect the research subjects involved in his cold-room studies? Access to recently declassified archival materials will provide answers to these complex and important historical questions.
Outpost Nursing and Hospital Life in Northern Manitoba
This project is a historical research study about nursing at the Fort Churchill military hospital. Between 1948 and 1984, Fort Churchill was Canada’s northernmost military base. Located on the shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba’s northeast corner, the base served as a gateway to the Canadian Arctic and hub for northern medicine. The base hospital accommodated the medical needs of service personnel and local population. It facilitated the training and placement of nurses throughout the Eastern Canadian Arctic, and the federal government regularly transferred patients from Arctic locations south to the military hospital. While nurses at the base hospital served as some of Canada’s northernmost outpost workers, little scholarly research is available on the history of nursing at Fort Churchill. This project seeks to address gaps in the current literature of northern outpost nursing through primary and oral history research conducted in the Churchill area. I will engage in open and mutually-beneficial dialogue with residents of the Churchill community to highlight the importance of local perspectives for learning about the history of healthcare in northern Canada and the subarctic region of Hudson Bay.