M992.103.1-2 | Anne Molson Gold Medal for Mathematics Science & Physics 1898, McGill University.

Anne Molson Gold Medal for Mathematics Science & Physics 1898, McGill University.
1898, 19th century
Metal: gold
9 cm
Gift of Mr. Paul Brooks Pitcher
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Medal (34)
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Keys to History

In 1884, McGill University opened its doors to women, although it allowed them to study only in the Faculty of Arts. The first generation of female students were nicknamed the "Donaldas" in honour of Donald Alexander Smith (1820-1914), the wealthy businessman and diplomat who funded the Royal Victoria College for women.

Among the women who went to McGill, many stood out for their academic excellence. The Anna Molson medal was won by Harriet Brooks (1876-1933) in 1898, the year she graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Brooks had won a scholarship to attend McGill, where she studied mathematics, languages, electricity and physics.

Harriet Brooks became Canada's first woman nuclear physicist. After graduation, she joined physicist Ernest Rutherford's (1871-1937) research group at McGill University; she was one of its first members. In 1899, Brooks helped other female students by tutoring mathematics at Royal Victoria College. In 1907-1908, she conducted research on emanations from actinium at the Currie Institute in Paris. Harriet Brooks died in 1933, probably of a radiation-related illness.

  • What

    This medal is made of gold and was awarded by McGill University for excellence in the fields of mathematics, science and physics.

  • Where

    This award medal was made in London, England, by the firm of J.S. & A.E. Wyon, well-known engravers and sculptors of medals.

  • When

    The Anna Molson Gold Medal was presented to Harriet Brooks in 1898, only 14 years after the first female students were allowed to enrol in McGill University and 15 years before they were able to enrol in the Faculty of Medicine.

  • Who

    Harriet Brooks was born on July 2, 1876, in Exeter, Ontario, and died on April 17, 1933, of a suspected radiation-related illness.