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Patrick McTaggart-Cowan was a distinguished meteorologist who served as the first president of SFU.
McTaggart-Cowan was born in Edinburgh on May 31, 1912 and immigrated with his family to Canada in 1913. The McTaggart-Cowan family settled in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Patrick McTaggart-Cowan attended the University of British Columbia, graduating with an honours degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1933. He proceeded to further studies at Oxford as a British Columbia Rhodes Scholar, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Science in 1936. In 1939 McTaggart-Cowan married Margaret Palmer, with whom he had two children: a daughter, Gillian, born in 1942; and a son, James Duncan, born in 1944. Patrick McTaggart-Cowan passed away in 1997 at the age of 85.
Patrick McTaggart-Cowan was well known in Canada as a meteorologist, scientist and educator. After Oxford, he joined the Meteorological Service of Canada. As officer in charge of the meteorological service in Newfoundland from 1937 to 1942, he pioneered weather services for the first transatlantic passenger flights. During W.W.II, McTaggart-Cowan was chief meteorologist for the RAF Ferry Command, and was responsible for forecasting weather conditions for delivery of airplanes from North America to Europe. McTaggart-Cowan's skill in forecasting won him the gratitude of hundreds of pilots ferrying planes across the Atlantic, and earned him membership as an Officer of the British Empire in 1944. From 1945 to 1963, McTaggart-Cowan worked for the Meteorological Service of Canada in Ontario, where he became the Director in 1959. In 1963, McTaggart-Cowan accepted the position as first president of Simon Fraser University, and moved back to British Columbia. He helped to guide construction of the University, oversaw the hiring of professional staff, and helped to set up the academic structure of the university which opened in 1965. In 1968, McTaggart-Cowan was asked to resign his position as President by the Board of Governors. McTaggart-Cowan went on to head the Science Council of Canada from 1968 until his retirement in 1975. While with the Science Council, he was appointed by the federal Minister of Transport to head the Task Force Operation Oil in 1970 to clean up the oil spill in Chedabucto Bay, Nova Scotia. After retirement, McTaggart-Cowan moved to his farm in Bracebridge, Ontario where he continued to take an active part in environmental and science policy issues, such as acid rain, water pollution, and science education. He also became a beekeeper.
Patrick Duncan McTaggart-Cowan was the recipient of a number of international medals and honours. His national contributions earned him 7 honourary doctorates from across Canada, including those from the University of British Columbia and from Simon Fraser University.
He was created an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979. In addition, he received a Coronation Medal in 1953 and the Canada Centennial Medal in 1967. For further information, see autobiographical notes, F 65-1-0-1.