Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Victor Martens (1920-2017)

Grain scientist.

Born in the Mennonite colony of Molotchna, Ukraine on 4 January 1920, his family left during the Russian Revolution and settled initially in Saskatchewan before moving to Winnipeg where he attended school. During the Great Depression, he spent summers working on farms in southern Manitoba, starting from age 10, and this is where he developed a passion for the grain industry.

In 1938, he was hired by Dr. J. A. Anderson to work in the Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg. He contributed to the invention of an electronic moisture meter used for measuring grains in Canada and United States, was involved in conceiving the Canadian International Grain Institute (CIGI) and served as its first Executive Director, and was involved in drafting and helping to negotiate passage of the Canadian Grain Act of 1971.

In 1978, he attracted the Sixth International Cereal and Bread Congress – the first gathering of 2,000 grain scientists to be held in North America – in Winnipeg, and he acted as Chairman for the event. The following year, he was awarded honourary membership in the American Association of Cereal Chemists for “rendering unusual service to the science of cereals and related materials”. The unusually shaped CIGI building at 303 Main Street was one of his most visible contributions to the city with a design that allowed the top two floors to accommodate a full grain mill.

He was married twice, first in 1942 to Anne Toews (1922-2005) and second to Elisabeth Bergmann who survived him. He volunteered for the Mennonite Central Committee and was a founding member of Menno Simons College, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and Canadian Mennonite University.

He died at Winnipeg on 26 July 2017 and was interred in the Glen Eden Memorial Gardens.


Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 July 2017.

This page was prepared by Melanie Geraghty.

Page revised: 20 January 2021

Memorable Manitobans

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