Press coverage of the Society and its activities

Recognizing Chalk River Alumni

Written by
Jim Ungrin
the North Renfrew Times
2024 Feb 07

Several previous Nuclear Heritage articles featured the achievements of a number of the scientists who worked at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories (CRNL) during the first decades of its existence. In many cases, the Canadian Nuclear Heritage Museum (CNHM) has, in its extensive collection (~2000), photographs which show these people in their labs or in group settings.

Identification of the personnel in these photographs has been a significant on-going effort and it has been of great assistance to have visitors to the museum point out the accomplishments of a particular scientist we have been unable to identify to date and have therefore overlooked.

One such photograph on display at the museum is of personnel in the Biology Division in 1946. The photo shows a group of 22 people assembled, one assumes by their clothing, on a cool day at the entrance of their laboratory. Fortunately, someone took on the task of recording the names of the people in the photograph.

One of the more recognizable names on the list is Andre Cipriani. Cipriani (2nd from left, middle row), was the head of the Biology Division and developed and enforced many of the regulations for the nascent nuclear industry regarding safe radiation exposure limits. Before coming to Chalk River, Cipriani developed the drug now known as Gravol.

Two others in the photograph, both attached to CRNL from the U.K., have long been overlooked. During a recent museum tour Joanna Dolling, who previously worked in the Biology Branch and was visiting with another Chalk River alumnus Doug Boreham, recognized and identified Charles Ford (standing immediately to the right of Cipriani) in the photograph. Ford, whose name is unfamiliar to most non-biologists, has been credited by many as the person who, during his outstanding career in human genetics at Harwell in the U.K., confirmed that humans have 46 chromosomes as opposed to the rest of the species in the ape family who have 48.

The second, in this case slightly infamous, U.K. visitor in the 1946 photograph is Wilfred Mann (5th from left, middle row). A previous article (NRT, 23 August 2023, “Chalk River’s Soviet spies; How many?) identified him as the possible, long-sought-after, fifth Soviet spy of the Cambridge Spy Ring.

Three remarkable men in one single photograph!

The Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage Inc. welcomes visitors to its collection, and encourages people to spend some time with the photograph collection to assist in identifying those early pioneers we have overlooked. Tours can be arranged by contacting or any member of the Society Executive.