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H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L



core of the Sun. This finding confirmed that

these fundamental particles have a finite mass

and that the current models for energy

generation in the Sun are very accurate.

McDonald shares the prestigious Nobel win

with Japanese scientist Takaaki Kajita, a

professor at the University of Tokyo who

similarly found, at the Super-Kamiokande

detector in Japan, that neutrinos created in the

atmosphere underwent a metamorphosis on

their journey to Earth.

“I am truly honoured,” says McDonald. “While I

am a co-winner of the Nobel Prize, the honour

really represents a culmination of the hard work

and contributions of Canadian and international

colleagues with whom I have collaborated

during my career.”

Early years

McDonald grew up in the small Nova Scotia city

of Sydney, where a tight-knit family gave him a

strong sense of community and laid the

foundation for his successful career. When

McDonald was a baby, his father, an

accountant, spent three years overseas during

the SecondWorldWar. During the war and after

his father returned, he was surrounded, along

with his mother and sister, by extended family

– something Mrs McDonald says contributes to

her husband’s strong ethics and his humility.

“Art has a wonderful way with people. He is very

humble and respectful, and I think that’s why

the SNO Scientific Collaboration has done so

well. They are all very collegial. That starts with

the director and permeates through the group.”

McDonald left Sydney – a steel and coal town –

for Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia, graduating

in 1964 with a BSc (Honours) in physics and a

year later with an MSc in the same field. From

there, he headed south, and west, to complete a

PhD in nuclear physics at the California Institute

of Technology in Pasadena.


an early age, Queen’s Professor Emeritus Arthur B

McDonald (Department of Physics, Engineering Physics

and Astronomy) was already busy trying to figure out how

things work.“His mother will tell you that at age five, he used to take apart

clocks,” says McDonald’s wife, Janet. “He was intrigued by how things

work very early on.” It’s that interest in the mechanics of the world that

eventually led McDonald – the joint 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in

Physics – to study the Universe on a fundamental level, through physics.

“In high school, I was interested in science, not necessarily physics. And

I had a math teacher, Bob Chafe, in Sydney, Nova Scotia (Canada), who

inspired many to pursue math,” says McDonald. “When I started studying

at Dalhousie University, I went to study math and science, but it was other

teachers, Professors Ernest Guptill and Innes MacKenzie, who inspired

me in physics. I also found that I could do it and it was fun.”

The Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize win recognises the immense contributions McDonald

has made over his lengthy career, but particularly honours his long term

research and groundbreaking findings into neutrinos – subatomic

particles considered the basic building blocks of the Universe.

In 1989, he became director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO),

located in the Vale (formerly known as INCO) Creighton mine near

Sudbury, Ontario, succeeding Queen’s Professor George Ewan, the

Canadian spokesman for SNO the year prior. Working in the world’s

deepest underground laboratory, the SNO team – made up of scientists

from several Canadian universities – discovered that neutrinos change

from one type, or ‘flavour’, to another on their journey to Earth from the

Tiny particles, BIG prize

Professor Emeritus Arthur B McDonald, Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada),

shares the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics

Professor Emeritus

Arthur B McDonald