Tag Archives: London

March 7th – The University of Western Ontario is founded

Here is a picture of Western's campus back in 1933. From this picture, you can see the J.W. Little Football Stadium (now the present site of the South Valley Building). University College (then known as the Arts building) and the Natural Sciences Building (now known as the Physics and Astronomy Building) can be seen in the background.

Here is a picture of Western’s campus back in 1933. From this picture, you can see the J.W. Little Football Stadium (now the present site of the South Valley Building). University College (then known as the Arts building) and the Natural Sciences Building (now known as the Physics and Astronomy Building) can be seen in the background.

On this day in 1878, the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, my alma mater, was founded. With 12 faculties and professional schools, and three affiliated university colleges (Huron University College, Brescia University College, which is Canada’s only female university-level college, and King’s University College), the University of Western Ontario, Western for short, has approximately 30000 currently enrolled undergraduate students and 5300 graduate students from 107 countries around the world. Western is nationally and internationally well recognized as one of Canada’s prestigious and illustrious institutions.

Western’s founder, Bishop Isaac Hellmuth was born in Poland in 1819 and educated at the University of Breslau (present-day University of Wrocław). While Hellmuth was originally Jewish in faith, discussions with theologians at Breslau made Hellmuth question his faith, and upon moving to England in 1842, Hellmuth converted to Anglicanism. In 1844, he entered the ministry, and was then sent to the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. Following some time spent as a professor of Hebrew and rabbinical literature at Bishop’s University (in Lennoxville, Quebec), Hellmuth found himself in London, Ontario.

Once in London, Hellmuth recognized the need for an institution to educate and train clergy in the area. In 1861, Hellmuth set off for England to raise funds to establish this clerical training institution in London. After enough funds had been gathered, in 1863, Hellmuth founded Huron College, which remains to this day as one of Western’s affiliate colleges. In 1871, Hellmuth became the Bishop of the Diocese of Huron, and with his newfound clout, began pushing the provincial government for the establishment of a university in London, Ontario. Hellmuth would invest much of his own money to the procurement of a charter for the new school. Though legislation for the creation of an university in London met stiff resistance in provincial parliament, in 1878 a charter for Western was finally authorized, undoubtedly aided by the fact that Hellmuth was married to the sister-in-law of the Minister of Education, as well as support from Premier Oliver Mowat.

Beautiful picture of University College (Arts Building) and the Lawson Memorial Library (now known as Lawson Hall, home to the Department of History) in 1940.

Beautiful picture of University College (Arts Building) and the Lawson Memorial Library (now known as Lawson Hall, home to Western’s Department of History) in 1940.

On March 7th, 1878, ‘The Western University of London Ontario” was founded. Three years later, Western opened its doors to students for the first time, with degrees in four faculties: Arts, Divinity, Law, and Medicine. At this time, Western was still a religiously affiliated institution, and it was clergy members that served as faculty for the school, with Bishops of Huron serving as Western’s first chancellors. Only in 1908 did the school become non-denominational and secularized. In 1923, the university was officially renamed “The University of Western Ontario”. Contrary to what many current students and alumni believe, that name is still the institution’s official name; while in 2012 the university re-branded itself as “Western University”, that epithet is only the school’s marketing name and not its official legal name.

Here are some of the notable alumni/faculty to have passed through Western’s doors:

  • Sir Frederick Banting – Nobel laureate in Medicine, for co-discovering insulin
  • Roberta Bondar – first female Canadian astronaut
  • Margaret Chan – director-general of the World Health Organization
  • David Furnish – filmmaker and civil partner of Sir Elton John
  • Dr. Chil-Yong Kang – developer of an HIV/AIDS vaccine currently undergoing clinical trials
  • Silken Laumann – Canadian champion rower, Olympic medalist
  • Alice Munro – author, Nobel Laureate in Literature for “mastery of the contemporary short story”
  • Kevin Newman – previous anchor of Global National
  • Kevin O’Leary – chairman of O’Leary Funds, dragon and shark on CBC’s Dragons Den and ABC’s Shark Tank respectively
  • Michael Ondaatje – poet, novelist of The English Patient, which was adapted into multiple Academy Award-winning film of the same name
  • Adrian Owen – neuroscientist, the Brain and Mind Institute
  • John Robarts – 17th Premier of Ontario
  • Alan Thicke – actor in Growing Pains and father to Robin Thicke
  • Paul Wells – columnist and journalist for Maclean’s Magazine

So on this Founder’s Day fellow Mustangs, wear purple and white, and let us take pride in our school’s past and the exciting future that is yet to come. Happy 136th birthday Western! Go ‘Stangs go!

Here is a video released by Western for this year’s Founder’s Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWuaMNbZfI8

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January 10th – Mind the Gap! The London Underground opens for the public

The famous London Underground roundel

The famous London Underground roundel

On this day in 1863, the London Underground, then known as the Metropolitan Railway, opened for the first time to the public. The ‘Underground’ or ‘the Tube’ is oldest operating subway system in the world, well ahead of New York City (1868 elevated, 1904 underground) and Paris (1900). An icon of London, the Underground is as evocative as the Big Ben or double decker buses of the British capital.

As the centre of the burgeoning British Empire, there was a desire amongst city planners to alleviate the chaotic traffic that existed on London’s roads. In 1854, a decision was made to construct the ‘Metropolitan Railway’, linking various railway stations together (Paddington Station/Bishop’s Road –> Edgware Road –> Baker Street –> Portland Road –> Gower Street –> King’s Cross Station –> Farringdon Street), at a total length of 6 km.

By the end of 1862, work was completed on the Metropolitan Railway, at a cost of £1.3 million. On January 10th, 1863, the Metropolitan Railway was opened to the public to great fanfare. On the opening day, 38000 passengers were carried on the system. By the end of the year, 9.5 million passengers were carried, and by two years, 12 million passengers. Over time the underground railway network would expand from the original 6 km track to become the London Underground that we know today.

Here are some interesting facts about the London Underground and its history:

  • The first subway trains moving on the Metropolitan Railway

    The first subway trains moving on the Metropolitan Railway

    The first trains running on the system in 1863 were powered by steam. Powered by coal, it made for smoky journeys underground. The first electric train began running in 1890, however steam-powered trains remained in use until the 1960s!

  • Prime Minister Gladstone’s funeral procession went through the London Underground. Following Gladstone’s death in 1898, many called for a public funeral to be arranged on his behalf. Gladstone’s coffin was moved through the London Underground on a train towards Westminster Abbey, with Edward VII and George V serving as honorary pallbearers. It is fitting that Gladstone took the Underground to his own funeral, as Gladstone was one of the first individuals to ride on the system (1862), before the Underground opened for the public.
  • The London Underground system served as a massive air-raid shelter for Londoners during the Blitz (1940-41) by the German Luftwaffe. Thousands of Londoners would descend into the Underground at night, leading officials to install bunk-beds in the Tube and handing out numbered tickets to the system to prevent overcrowding. Trains would continue to run as Londoners sought shelter, some even delivering food and tea to those seeking shelter. Underground lines not used during the Second World War were converted to factories for aircraft production, and even storage space for precious items evacuated from the British Museum!
  • Some icons of the London Underground came about through the system’s history. The famous red circle roundel first appeared in 1908, the Tube Map (based on electrical circuits, originally deemed too radical for Londoners to comprehend) in 1933, and the “Mind the Gap” warning first heard on trains in 1968.
  • For a look at the London Underground through its 151 years of existence, take a look at this collection of photographs documenting the Tube’s history. Fascinating! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/9791007/The-history-of-the-Tube-in-pictures-150-years-of-London-Underground.html

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