Press coverage of the Society and its activities

Where’s Bruno?

Written by
Jim Ungrin
the North Renfrew Times
Bruno Pontecorvo (Wikipedia)

The nuclear heritage group (officially the Society for the Preservation of Canada’s Nuclear Heritage Inc., SPCNHI) would like to help cure the winter blahs with a new version of the “Where’s Waldo” game.  In this case it’s “Where’s Bruno”.  The Bruno being sought is Bruno Pontecorvo.  Pontecorvo was an accomplished physicist who fled the Nazis in Italy and went to England.  He was then part of the U.K. delegation that worked in the Montreal laboratories and then came to Deep River with his wife and three sons in 1945.  The family returned to the U.K. in early 1949. A few years later Bruno defected to Russia where he continued a productive career in physics.  In Deep River he was recognized as an excellent physicist, who played an important role in the start-up of NRX, a charmer and a champion tennis player.

One of the projects of the SPCNHI is to establish and document the residences of the nuclear pioneers.  Many of the pioneers lived in the Beach-Parkdale-Spring area and various sources have been researched to establish where Laurence, Keys, Lewis, Gray, Elliott, Sargent, Park, Cook, Cockcroft, Hatfield, Carmichael, Mawson, Cipriani, etc. lived. The residences of B. Brockhouse and A. McDonald, our Nobel laureates, have also been identified.

The location of the Pontecorvo household has, however, proven to be a challenge.  Civic records are of no help since NRC owned all houses during the period the family was here and the Town did not exist until 1959.  Few people had telephones and the 1948 and 1949 regional phonebooks viewed at the Champlain Trail Museum in Pembroke do not offer us any clues.  There was a provincial election in 1948, but the polling list, if one can be located, is unlikely to include members of the U.K. delegation.  Files at CNL may somewhere still have a record of house renters in that NRC era but we have been unable to penetrate that system. 

We have resorted to testing the memories of our long-time residents.  They have almost immediately come up with three solid answers – 31 Alder (where the Barrs, Jarvis and Ells families later lived), 9 Alder (information from Gladys Geiger via Art McDonald  613 541 1405) and “the corner of LeCaron and Glendale” (according to Mim Barry).  Two less definitive answers are “a smaller house on Hillcrest” and “somewhere on Spring”.  Most responders also relate the story of the Pontecorvos leaving in 1949 with a basement full of ashes from their coal-fired furnace.  It appears they did not like to take the ashes out in the cold.

Since the Pontecorvo family lived in Deep River just a bit over three years, it is unlikely that they moved more than once.  Anyone who can help in solving this mystery is asked to contact Jim Ungrin, who is leading this effort, at 613-584-3055 or