Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Albert Henry Stewart Gillson (1889-1954)

University administrator.

Born at Soham, England on 4 December 1889, he studied mathematics at Cambridge University, graduating in 1911. He then studied astronomy under Sir George Darwin, son of naturalist Charles Darwin. An interest in art led him to study for a time at the Slade School in London. At the outbreak of World War One, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. With his knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he helped in the organization of a navigation system for Royal Naval Air Service pilots. In 1920 he left the Navy and accepted an appointment as a professor of mathematics at McGill University in Montreal. He took leave during World War Two to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and became the chief instructor at the navigation school at Rivers, Manitoba. In 1943, in recognition of his wartime contributions, he was made an officer in the Order of the British Empire.

Gillson retired from the RCAF in 1944 to become Chair of the Mathematics Department at McGill, taking a secondment for three years to the Sir William Dawson Veterans College at St. Johns, Quebec. He was recalled to McGill in 1947 to become Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He left a year later to become President of the University of Manitoba, serving from 1948 to just before his death. He oversaw a period of unprecedented growth of the University and its consolidation at the Fort Garry Campus, and he was an enthusiastic supporter of research, establishing the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

He retired from the University in September 1954, due to a lengthy illness, and died at Winnipeg on 10 September 1954. He is commemorated by the Gillson Street at the University of Manitoba.


“Retired President of University Dies”, Winnipeg Free Press, 10 September 1954, page 1.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 28 October 2011

Memorable Manitobans

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