McGill University, in MONTRÉAL, was founded in 1821. To meet demands for public education, the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning was established in 1801. In 1813, merchant James MCGILL died, leaving his estate outside Montréal and an endowment of £10 000 for a college, naming the Royal Institution as trustee. It acquired a charter for "the University of McGill College" in 1821. McGill's heirs contested his will; the trustees, on gaining the estate, adopted in 1829 the Montreal Medical Institution, a teaching arm of the Montreal General Hospital, as the new university's Faculty of Medicine. The litigation surrounding the endowment was finally settled in the trustees' favour, and the nondenominational McGill College was built on the founder's farm. A faculty of arts was established in 1843.
In 1852 the Royal Institution merged with McGill University. The governors appointed as principal John William DAWSON, a young Nova Scotia geologist, and his driving genius began to build McGill into an internationally renowned institution. His interest in public education led to the establishment of McGill Normal School. He also formulated a scheme for affiliated schools and colleges across Canada which taught the McGill curriculum. Further, he established the tradition of enlisting the sympathies of wealthy benefactors, notably the MOLSON family, Lord Strathcona (see D.A. SMITH) and Sir William MACDONALD. McGill received minimal public funding until the early 1960s.
Dawson's successor, William Peterson, supported McGill's inclination towards the medical, biological and physical sciences. In 1898 he brought Ernest RUTHERFORD from Cambridge University to a full professorship of physics. Peterson encouraged H.M. TORY to found McGill College in Vancouver (now UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA). He persuaded Macdonald to found Macdonald College in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue as a constituent of McGill, to further agriculture, food science and teacher training.
During the principalship of Sir Arthur CURRIE, Canada's brilliant WWI corps commander, the McGill graduate school began to share with Toronto the development of postgraduate studies in Canada. Medicine remained pre-eminent, with such names in the interwar years as J.B. COLLIP and Wilder PENFIELD; chemistry was tremendously encouraged by Otto MAASS and physics by J.S. FOSTER. The McGill Social Science Project, begun 1930 by Leonard MARSH, strongly influenced Canada in the development of the welfare state.
Cyril James, principal from 1940 to 1962, led the fight for federal funding of universities. During his tenure an immense flood of returning veterans swelled enrolment, which increased from about 3400 in 1939 to over 8000 in 1948. After the war the range of studies broadened, and now every aspect of human culture is actively studied on campus. Stephen LEACOCK, Hugh MACLENNAN and Frank SCOTT brought contributions to humanities and law. In the 1960s and 1970s McGill survived the "student revolt" and came to terms with the reviving FRENCH CANADIAN NATIONALISM.
McGill is a constituent of the provincial university network but has considerable freedom in maintaining its tradition of excellence in education and research. The university comprises the Centre for Continuing Education and 12 faculties: medicine, arts, law, education, engineering, dentistry, agricultural and environmental studies, music, management, science, religious studies and graduate studies and research.
Prominent alumni include: Leonard COHEN; William SHATNER; Irving LAYTON; Hume CRONYN; John Ralston SAUL; Charles TAYLOR; Maureen FORRESTER; Madeleine PARENT; Hubert REEVES; Ken DRYDEN; James NAISMITH; and former prime ministers Sir Wilfrid LAURIER and Sir John ABBOTT. McGill recently celebrated its 122nd Rhodes Scholar, its 4th graduate Nobel Prize winner and 2nd faculty Nobel Prize winner, and surpassed The Twenty-First Century Fund goal of $200 million. Its motto is "Grandescunt Aucta Labore" ("By work, all things increase and grow") and its official colour is red. Enrolment is approximately 30 000 full- and part-time students.