Shemilt, Leslie Webster

BASc, MSc, PhD 
4T1 Chemical 
Inducted: 1993 

Les Shemilt brought distinction to the University through his academic and research achievements at Toronto and four other schools: Universities of Manitoba, British Columbia and new Brunswick and McMaster University. Few U of T Engineering graduates have gone so far or accomplished so much in their chosen fields.

Following war industry experience and then graduate work and teaching both at the University of Manitoba and Toronto, Les left with his PhD in 1947 to apply his training in the formation of the UBC Department of Chemical Engineering, which he guided for several years in to a position of strong professional recognition.

In 1960, he began a repetition of this process as the founding head of the Chemical Engineering Department at UNB. There, he also contributed to the province’s industrial development program through is creation of the new Brunswick Research and Productivity Council. During this period he also served as Chairman of the Atlantic Provinces Inter-university Committee on the Sciences, and on the National Research Council.

In 1969, McMaster called and Les Shemilt moved to Hamilton as Dean of Engineering where his leadership was marked by a doubling of the number of Engineering programs, and the sustaining of his devotion to Chemical Engineering within an innovative department.

He enriched this peripatetic career with an inspiring record as teacher and research supervisor of graduate students in addition to his own pioneering research.  All this resulted in more than 70 technical papers and some 30 general publications on a wide range of topics in both Engineering and chemistry.

Among his more prominent roles was his building of the quality, scope and reputation of the Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering (1967-85), the Presidency of the Chemical Institute of Canada, and visiting professorships in five other countries. Since 1979, his role as Chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee to Atomic Energy of Canada on the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program has been an activity that attracted both national and international attention.


  • Over a hundred publications, including major regional studies, national reports and a History of Chemical Engineering in Canada
  • Principal force behind the strengthening of Chemical Engineering education and research in Canada in the postwar period
  • Fellow of:  National Council on Religion in Higher Education (1946), The Chemical Institute of Canada (1956), The American Institute of Chemical Engineering (1973), The Royal Society of Canada (1985), the Canadian Academy of Engineering (1987), Honourary Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Chemistry (1971), and Officer, Order of Canada (1991).
  • Recipient of the Centennial Medal (1967), Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (1971), Engineering Medal (1986), Professional Engineers of Ontario (1986), 125th Confederation Commemoration Medal (1992), Julian C. Smith Medal (1993), Engineering Institute of Canada (1993), and two Honourary Degrees.