N-0000.25.261 | 100 Ton testing machine, Macdonald Science Building, McGill University, Montreal, QC, about 1895
100 Ton testing machine, Macdonald Science Building, McGill University, Montreal, QC, about 1895
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1895, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 8 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , educational (709) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
Canada's industrial boom in the years 1896-1919 was part of the second Industrial Revolution, a powerful meeting of economic needs and scientific knowledge. Chemistry and the physical sciences were applied to new industrial processes like aluminum smelting and hydro-electricity. Scientific testing of new materials and machinery became a crucial industrial prerequisite. Engineers ceased to be empirical tinkerers and became professionals schooled in scientific process. In 1887 the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers was created. On average over the years down to 1922, 66% of its members worked for private enterprise. Canadian universities responded by creating engineering faculties. Laboratories in these schools tested the strength of new materials. The term "applied engineering" was used to describe the art of modern engineering.
The invention of mass-produced concrete coincided with the massive expansion of urban-industrial Canada. Concrete allowed the building of our first automobile highways, massive hydro-electric dams and multi-floor factories and skyscrapers.
McGill University in Montreal had been teaching engineers since the 1850s but did not award the degree of Bachelor of Science until 1889, through its Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying. Montreal tobacco tycoon William Macdonald (1831-1917) funded the construction of a dedicated building for engineering instruction and research in 1893.
In the nineteenth century, the making of cement had been greatly improved. The addition of new ingredients like gypsum and continuous heat treatment in rotary kilns had made concrete stronger and cheaper. Iron rods were embedded in poured concrete to allow it to sustain bridges and skyscrapers.
In 1909 a merger orchestrated by financier Max Aitken (1879-1964) created the Canada Cement Company in Montreal. The huge company was able to profit by the economies of scale that continuously operating rotary kilns gave big concrete makers.