With the success of the Allied offensive in Europe dominating the headlines, President Walter Murray welcomed 40 members of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) to the University of Saskatchewan in 1918.
The occasion was the first general meeting of the organization to be held in Western Canada, and was to have a profound impact on the direction of future research at the U of S.
The conference, held from Aug. 8-10, focused on three topics: Good roads, water supply and sanitation, and new facts on the proper way to mix cement. The latter was of major concern to the Prairie Provinces because of their highly alkaline soils.
Many building foundations and water and sewage systems poured just a few years earlier were crumbling.
Within two months of the conference C.J. Mackenzie, Dean of the College of Engineering, was chairing an EIC-sponsored committee to investigate the deterioration of concrete on the prairies.
A test plot was established in Saskatoon where various mixtures of concrete were exposed to the soil.
Thorbergur Thorvaldson, head of the Department of Chemistry, took the lead and within a few years developed the first sulfate-resistant cement, earning him an international reputation.
Here we see those who attended the EIC’s second professional meeting posed in the doorway of the College Building. President Walter Murray, seated in the front row, has a child on his lap.