↑ Return to NSIS Hall of Fame

William J. Archibald


Born:             30 October 1912, Sydney, Nova Scotia

Died:              29 May 2001, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Field:             Theoretical Physics



Though born in Sydney, Archibald grew up in Bridgetown, in the Annapolis Valley. He obtained his PhD from the University of Virginia in 1938. Part of his PhD work was published in a paper entitled “The complete solution of the differential equation for the confluent hypergeometric function” (Phil. Mag. XXVI, 415 (1938)). The result was surprising and significant for, until then, it was thought the complete solution had been known. Archibald spent the year 1938-39 at Yale as a Sterling Fellow. His first career position was with the National Research Council of Canada (1939-42). Wartime activities in Halifax put tremendous pressure on the Dalhousie physics department, and Archibald was persuaded to return to his Alma Mater in 1942 to help out. In the next forty-two years, Archibald made an invaluable contribution to generations of students at Dalhousie in his role, at various times, as O.E. Smith Professor of Physics, Dr. A. C. Fales Professor of Theoretical Physics, Head of the Physics Department, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Arts, and Dean of Freshmen.

Archibald’s research has had an impact not only in physics and mathematics, but also in chemistry, biology and the health sciences. His paper, “A demonstration of some new methods of determining molecular weights from the data of the ultracentrifuge” published in J. Phys. Colloid Chem. 51,1204 (1947) has been cited more than 650 times, with about half of these citations taking place in the period 1960-70.

Archibald was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1947. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of New Brunswick in 1961, and an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Dalhousie University in 1979.


D.D. Betts, “William James Archibald, 1912–2001.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada, Vol. XII, pp. 76–78, 2001.

Heighton, E.: Dr. Howard L. Bronson, Physicist.  Printed Privately, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1990. 558 pp.

D. Kiang and R.H. March, “William James Archibald.” Physics in Canada, Vol. 57, No. 4, July/August 2001