New Search

George W. Govier

  • Born: June 15, 1917, Nanton, Alberta, Canada

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0157
Interview Date: May 7, 1997
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 29

  Abstract of Interview

George Govier begins the interview with a discussion of his family background and youth. Govier grew up in Canada, the son of a business owner. While in high school, he developed a strong interest in chemistry, mathematics, and physics, and decided to pursue chemical engineering because it combined many of these interests. Govier attended the University of British Columbia, where he earned his B.A.Sc. in chemical engineering in 1939. After graduation, he accepted a position with Standard Oil of British Columbia. A year later, he became an instructor at the University of Alberta, and began his graduate studies, receiving his M.Sc. in physical chemistry in 1945. As he had summers off from teaching, Govier took short-term positions with Standard Oil, the Aluminum Company of Canada, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board. During this time, he also took a brief leave from the University of Alberta to pursue his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan; he received his Sc.D. in chemical engineering in 1949. In 1948, Govier became the head of the University of Alberta's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and was instrumental in developing the program there. Eleven years later, he accepted the position of dean of the Faculty of Engineering, a position which he held until his departure from the University of Alberta. Govier then became the chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, an organization in which he had been active since 1948. He discusses the activities of the board, his involvement in various professional organizations, and his consulting experiences. Govier concludes the interview with his thoughts on the future of the petroleum industry in North America.


1939 B.A.Sc., Chemical Engineering, University of British Columbia
1945 M.Sc., Physical Chemistry, University of Alberta
1949 Sc.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

  Professional Experience

Standard Oil

1939 - 1940 Plant Operator, Standard Oil Company of British Columbia, Vancouver

Standard Oil

1941 - 1941 Office Engineer, Standard Oil Company of British Columbia, Vancouver


1940 Consultant

University of Alberta

1940 - 1942 Lecturer

University of Alberta

1942 - 1948 Assistant Professor

University of Alberta

1948 - 1963 Professor

University of Alberta

1948 - 1959 Head, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

University of Alberta

1959 - 1963 Dean, Faculty of Engineering

Aluminum Company of Canada, Arvida, Québec

1942 - 1942 Design Engineer

Oil and Gas Conservation Board, Alberta, Canada

1945 - 1945 Special Studies Engineer

Energy Resources Conservation Board, Canada

1948 - 1959 Member

Energy Resources Conservation Board, Canada

1949 - 1962 Deputy Chairman

Energy Resources Conservation Board, Canada

1962 - 1975 Chairman

Energy Resources Conservation Board, Canada

1977 - 1978 Chairman

University of Calgary

1963 - 1975 Professor

Petroleum Recovery Institute

1966 - 1979 Board of Directors

Petroleum Recovery Institute

1976 - 1979 Vice President

Alberta Helium Ltd.

1973 - 1990 Chairman, Board of Directors

Alberta Helium Ltd.

1985 - 1990 Managing Director

Department of Energy and Natural Resources, Canada

1975 - 1977 Chief Deputy Minister

Coal Mining Research Centre

1977 - 1978 Chairman, Policy Committee

Coal Mining Research Centre

1978 - 1979 Vice President

Govier Consulting Services Ltd.

1978 President


1964 R. S. Jane Memorial Award, Chemical Institute of Canada
1964 Award of Merit, Canadian Natural Gas Processing Association
1967 Sesquicentennial Award, University of Michigan
1967 Centennial Medal of Canada
1970 Centennial Award, Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta
1971 Selwyn G. Blaylock Medal, Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
1976 Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Calgary
1976 Gold Medal, Canadian Council of Professional Engineers
1976 Achievement Award, Government of Alberta
1978 Named "Oil Man of the Year" by Oilweek Magazine
1981 Doctor of Science, honoris causa, McGill University
1985 Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa, University of Waterloo
1986 Distinguished Services Medal, Petroleum Society of CIM
1987 Sir John Kennedy Medal, The Engineering Institute of Canada
1989 Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal, Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME
1992 Half Century of Membership Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family Background and Youth 1

Growing up in Canada. Father's businesses. Early interest in science. Attraction to chemical engineering.

College Education and Early Career 2

Attending University of British Columbia. Position with Standard Oil of British Columbia. Teaching at University of Alberta. Beginning graduate studies. Summer jobs at Standard Oil, Aluminum Company of Canada.

University of Michigan 5

Taking a leave from the University of Alberta. Influence of work of George Granger Brown and Donald Katz. Doctoral studies.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board 6

Invitation to join. Working with Ian McKinnon. Correlative rights.

University of Alberta 9

Becoming dean of the engineering faculty. Expansion of faculty. Establishment of University of Calgary.

After Academia 11

Leaving academic world. Becoming chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board. Consulting for Royal Bank of Canada. Focus on petroleum engineering.

Professional Activities 16

Involvement in Chemical Institute of Canada, Association of Professional Engineers, World Petroleum Congress. Serving on board of directors for Texaco Canada, Inc., Stone & Webster, Raylo Chemicals, etc. Involvement in CIDA.

Concluding Thoughts 20

Future of petroleum industry in North America. Publishing a textbook. Wife and daughters.

Notes 24

Index 26

  About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

Hear It Firsthand

The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.