Richard (Dick) Tomlinson, 1924 to 2018
Professor Emeritus Richard H. Tomlinson, OC (born c. 1924), a chemist and philanthropist, has passed.
He is best known as a founding director of Gennum Corp., a Canadian manufacturer of semiconductors and semiconductor-based products, and for making one of the largest single donations to a Canadian university. He studied at Bishop’s University and received a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1948 from McGill University studying under Otto Maass – who he also served under in the Canadian military’s Chemical warfare Unit during WWII. After post-doctoral fellowships at the National Research Council and Cambridge, Dick joined McMaster University’s Chemistry Department in 1950. He became chair of the Department and taught at the University for close to four decades. He earned a teaching award from the Chemical Institute of Canada and published almost 60 peer-reviewed papers dealing with subjects as diverse as molecular diffusion and flow, polymer chemistry, the geological age of minerals and chemistry in molecular beams.
For years Dick hosted the Departmental BBQ after the annual golf tournament in his backyard out around the swimming pool. It was a beautiful venue and remembered fondly. He was made an emeritus professor in 1988 and retired the year after. Then he took on a bigger project. He became a founding director of Gennum Corporation, which went on to establish itself as the world’s largest maker of microchips for hearing aids and one of the biggest suppliers of chips for digital signal-processing TV studio equipment. When McMaster’s nuclear reactor lost its government funding and was threatened with closure, Dick approached the University with a proposal. Instead of spending millions to close the facility, he suggested “we use it to make millions instead.”
An avid golfer and runner (he held the national record for the 30-kilometre run for those over 60 years), when he wasn’t busy with these pursuits, he was busy using the reactor for his own research approaches to develop radioactive iodines and nuclicides used widely in the treatment of cancers and various diagnostic medical procedures.
Dick is also a philanthropist and has made several impressive donations to McMaster and other universities. The Richard H. Tomlinson Gallery in the McMaster Museum of Art was made possible through his donations. In 2003, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada. On Sunday, January 28, 2018 in his 95th year, Richard died peacefully at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton Ontario after a brief illness. To read more about Dick’s life and contributions, see these links, The Globe and Mail and McGill University.