Historic Milestones


Construction of the University's first major edifice—the Science Building—begins, eventually renamed UBC's Chemistry Building and becoming home to the department.


The University grants its first graduate degree in Arts and Science to Ruth Vivian Fulton's study on the separation of manganese from iron by phenyl-nitroso-hydroxylamine ammonium. Women earned six out of the first 10 masters degrees granted by UBC.


First installed in offices in downtown Vancouver by John Davidson, Provincial Botanist of British Columbia, the UBC Herbarium is moved to Point Grey, and evolves into the largest collection West of Ottawa, Canada.


A Van de Graff generator is installed in UBC's Hennings (Physics) Building—one of many government-supported research initiatives that emerge across Canada after World War II.


UBC Chemistry Professor Neil Bartlett demonstrates the first reaction of a noble gas by combining xenon with platinum hexafluoride. The discovery is fundamental to our understanding of the chemical bond.


Faculty of Arts and Science splits.


Six Botany faculty members—Robert Scagel, Robert Bandoni, Glenn Rouse, WB Schofield, Janet Stein, and TM Taylor—publish An Evolutionary Survey Of The Plant Kingdom, a volume that puts the department onto the textbook best seller list for almost a decade.


Tri-University Meson Facility (TRIUMF)—Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics—opens on UBC's South Campus. Houses the world's largest cyclotron, and is one of only three subatomic research facilities that specialize in producing extremely intense beams of particles.


Vortek Industries—UBC’s first spin off company—is founded by Gary Albach, a UBC Physics and Astronomy graduate. The company leverages the work of Roy Nodwell, former head of the department.


John Demco, an IT manager with Computer Science, conceives the dot-ca domain name and leads a group of volunteers to manage requests and applications by hand. By 2000, almost 100,000 dot-ca domain names were registered by UBC volunteers.


A fluid experiment designed by UBC Chemistry's Don Brooks is activated and monitored by astronaut George D. Nelson on board Space Shuttle Discovery during a five-day mission, STS-26R.


With financial support from the minerals resource industry and NSERC, the Mineral Deposit Research Unit is established. An award winning joint venture between UBC and the mining community, the MDRU is devoted to solving problems related to mineral exploration.


Raymond Andersen, a professor in the departments of Chemistry and Earth and Ocean Sciences, conducts the world’s first investigation of the secondary metabolism of cold-water organisms.


UBC biochemist Michael Smith wins the Nobel Prize for developing the technique of site-directed mutagenesis, which allows the DNA sequence of any gene to be altered in a designated manner. He donates the prize money to researchers working on the genetics of schizophrenia, to Science World BC, and to the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology.


Canadian scientist and UBC alumnus Bertram Brockhouse shares the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics with American Clifford Shull for developing neutron scattering techniques for studying condensed matter.


UBC’s Murray Goldberg conceives a distributed, Internet-based learning tool for his computer science students: WebCT. Today the software is used by more than 10 million students at over 2,500 universities and colleges in over 80 countries.


The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, a premier international research facility headquartered at UBC, is established. Receives an unprecedented $10 million in funding from U.S. and Mexican agencies.


Computer scientist and mathematician Maria Klawe becomes the first female dean of the UBC Faculty of Science, after serving as the university's first female senior vice-president and science department head. Klawe goes on to become president of Harvey Mudd College (another first), a small US college focused on engineering, science and math.


Computer scientist David Lowe develops the Scale-Invariant Feature Transform, an algorithm that identifies objects in images. The technology has been licensed by more than 20 companies, making it the most widely adopted invention in UBC history.


UBC spin-off company QLT begins sales of Visudyne, the world's first treatment for age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. Based on the work of UBC chemistry professor David Dolphin and immunologist and alumna Julia Levy, the drug has saved the vision of approximately 500,000 people, and QLT has gone to become UBC's most successful spin-off.


Influential oceanographer and UBC Professor Emeritus Timothy Parsons is the first Canadian to win Japan's most prestigious science and technology award—the 2001 Japan Prize, that nation's equivalent to the Nobel Prize.


University of British Columbia zoologist Lee Gass is named Canadian Professor of the Year. Gass was instrumental in developing UBC's interdisciplinary Science One program


The UBC Pacific Museum of the Earth officially opens to the public, made possible by the generosity of UBC alumnus Ross Beaty and the Pacific Mineral Museum Society. The Museum's collection is based on the amalgamation of the MY Williams Geological Museum and the Pacific Mineral Museum.

UBC microbiology and immunology professor Brett Finlay heads the SARS Accelerated Vaccine Initiative, an international fast-track response to combat the infection.

Canada's first space telescope, the Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars (MOST) telescope, is built by a team led by Physics and Astronomy's Jaymie Matthews. The suitcase-sized instrument is quickly dubbed the 'Humble' telescope for its diminutive proportions and relatively small ($10 million) cost.


Opening of Michael Smith Laboratories, a $30-million biotechnology research facility, housing UBC's Biotechnology Laboratory and named after the Nobel Laureate, who passed away in 2000.


Ron Clowes—an award winning professor specializing in seismic and other geophysical studies—is awarded the Logan Medal, Canada's top geological science award.


American physicist and Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman recruited to UBC to lead the Faculty’s efforts to improve undergraduate science education. The initiative goes on to transform more than 200 courses, improving the learning experience of more than 16,000 UBC undergraduates every year.

The $3.4-million Abdul Ladha Science Student Centre opens, becoming UBC's largest student social space dedicated to interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration, and home to the Science Undergraduate Society. The Centre is funded through a generous donation from UBC alumni Abdul and Hanifa Ladha, a levy from all science undergraduate students, and the University.


George Albert Sawatzky, professor in the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Chemistry, becomes the latest UBC Science fellow elected to the UK's Royal Society. He joins eight other fellows from UBC Science departments.

UBC's oldest building—the Chemistry Building—reopens featuring new state-of-the-art research and learning facilities. The renovation of the building (formerly the Science Building) is part of UBC Renew, a $120-million partnership between UBC and the provincial government.


More than $100 million in investment from the British Columbia and Federal governments bolsters two major infrastructure projects at UBC Science: The Earth Sciences Building and the renewal of two wings of the UBC Bioscience Buildings.


The official opening of UBC's Beaty Biodiversity Centre, a $50 million complex that houses some of the best biodiversity researchers in the world, and the university's two-million specimen strong natural history collection. The 11,000 square metre, four-storey project was made possible by support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Province of British Columbia, an $8-million gift from UBC alumni Ross and Trisha Beaty, and a $3-million gift from the djavad mowafaghian foundation.


The UBC Earth Sciences Building opens. The $75 million complex is home to Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Statistics, the Pacific Institute of the Mathematical Sciences, and the dean’s office of the Faculty of Science.


The Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver's natural history venue, welcomes its 100,000th visitor.