Bertrand Tyrrell Denis
1903 - 1985
By FRELEIGH FITZ OSBORNE
Bertrand Tyrrell Denis died July 15, 1985, after an illness
lasting several months. During his working lifetime, he was a devoted civil
servant and a contributor to geology and to the mining industry of
Bert's father, who came to Canada from France in 1881,
graduated in mining engineering from McGill University, Montreal, in 1897. He
worked for the mines branch of the Department of Mines in Ottawa from his
graduation until 1909, when he moved to Quebec City. There he became Director
(Superintendent) of Mines for the Province of Quebec. Bert, his elder son, was
born to his wife, Margaret Tyrrell, January 12, 1903, in Ottawa.
Bert received his primary and secondary education in Quebec.
However, he was only fifteen years old on their completion and was, therefore,
compelled to wait a year before entering McGill University. During that year,
he engaged in summer fieldwork in British Columbia and in teaching mathematics
in the boy's high school in Quebec. He received the B.Sc. degree in mining
engineering in 1923 from McGill. He was then awarded a scholarship for the
study of geology by the government of Quebec. Bert chose to study for the
doctoral degree at Geneva, Switzerland. He spent the years 1924 - 1926 there
and completed all requirements for the degree except the dissertation. The work
on it was completed, but it did not please him, and he refused to submit it.
This conduct was in keeping with his ability to criticize his own work and to
trust his own judgement of it. It must be pointed out that in taking his degree
in mining engineering, although intending to study geology, Bert was following
the custom of most Canadian geologists. Furthermore, summer employment on field
parties of the Geological Survey of Canada was almost a requirement for the
Employment opportunities for geologists in Canada in 1926
were few, so Bert accepted a contract with the Anglo American Corporation to
work in what was then Northern Rodesia. The work, which was largely
prospecting, was under the direction of J.A.Bancroft, who had been one of
Bert's teachers at McGill. Bert was one of many Canadian and American
geologists who were engaged in this project.
Bert returned to Quebec in 1929 because his father was
losing the sight in one eye. He received an appointment as geologist to the
Quebec Bureau of Mines, the first of several geologists to be appointed.
Previously, most geological work in Quebec had been done by officers of the
Geological Survey of Canada; among them, Sir William Logan, C.S.Ells, and
F.D.Adams were noteworthy. The situation changed in 1929; from then on many
geological reports were by Quebec geologists. During the decade 1929-1939, Bert
was engaged in fieldwork in the summers and report writing and administrative
tasks during the winters. His reports were incorporated in the annual reports
of the Bureau of Mines. Fieldwork was under the direction of a consulting
geologist J.A.Dresser, and the methods were similar to those used by geologists
of the Geological Survey of Canada. Bert mapped areas in the Grenville and the
Abitibi-Temiskaming regions, as well as reporting on specific mineral
Bert made a study of chromite occurrences in the
serpentinites of the eastern townships. J.T.Williamson, who was his student
assistant, became interested in the mineralogy of the rocks and made a
petrographic and mineralographic study of them for a Ph.D. dissertation.
Diamonds had reportedly been estracted from these rocks, but a search failed to
disclose any. It is now known that the original report was in error.
Williamson, like Bert, went to work for Bancroft in Africa, but, becoming tired
of the work, he went prospecting for diamondss and was successful in finding an
exploitable diamond-bearing formation.
At J.A.Dresser's suggestion, Bert spent the academic session
1937-1938 at McGill, taking courses and preparing a dissertation based on
fieldwork that he had done earlier. He was awarded the Ph.D. in 1938.
The war beginning in 1939 brought about a change in the
emphasis in geological work in Quebec. The search for base metals and
industrial minerals was intensified. Old prospects and mines were re-examined
and other studies were made. Resident geologists were assigned to mining
districts. Upon becoming chief geologist of a mineral deposits division, Bert
directed much of this work. He was also responsible for much planning of work
in geology, geochemistry, and geophysics and for the editing of reports in both
English and French.
Bert became Director General of Services in the Department
of Mines in 1958 and Assistant Deputy Minister in 1959. The amalgamation of
several departments made a new title mandatory, and he became Associate Deputy
Minister and Director General of Mines in the Ministry of Natural Resources. He
held this position until his retirement in 1964.
Substantial changes in the methods of geological field work
took place during Bert's service with the Department of Mines. At first, canoe
travel and backpacking were routine. Few topographic maps were available, and
geologists were commonly obliged to make their own, often with an inaccurate
cadastral map as a base. Bert contributed to geology by encouraging the use of
airplanes, aerial survey maps, and photographs. Furthermore, geochemical and
geophysical studies were introduced under his direction. He found time to give
lectures in a course offered annually for prospectors by the government. His
last personal service to geology was in 1969 when he spent three months in
Algeria acting as a consultant on geological work being organized there.
Bert was an enthusiastic and excellent badminton player. He
had collected stamps in his youth but took up the hobby seriously in 1939 and
continued it until two months before his death. He and his wife began studying
Spanish in 1955 and Russian somewhat later. A principal hobby was the study of
mushrooms. Bert was an enthusiastic field observer of them, not only in Canada,
but also on his foreign travels. During his lifetime, he took more than 3,000
pictures of mushrooms.
Bert was a member and held offices in several scientific and
professional societies. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of
America in 1933 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1943.
Bert's list of publications include
- ASBESTOS OCCURRENCES IN SOUTHERN QUEBEC. In Ann Rpt Quebec Bur Mines 1930
Pt D, 1931. Ptd wps, pp 147-194, 5 figs, 1 MIP.
|PAUL-EMILE AUGER, s.r.c.
|Bertrand T. Denis
1903 - 1985
|BERTRAND T. DENIS est décédé le quinze
juillet 1985, à Québec, à l'âge de 82 ans. Sa
disparition prive le monde scientifique et l'industrie minérale d'un
homme de haute valeur qui, au cours de sa vie, a contribué
énormément à une meilleure compréhension des
phénomènes géologiques reliés à la formation
des gîtes minéraux et au développement de l'industrie
minérale dans plusieurs pays du monde. Au Canada et au
Québec en particulier, le docteur Bertrand Denis fut un des pionniers de
la cartographie géologiques dans les régions qui maintenant
contiennent un grand nombre de mines productrices.
| Né à Ottawa le 12 janvier 1903,
Bertand Denis était le fils de T.C. Denis et de Margaret Tyrrell. Son
père, d'origine française, était géologue, ancien
directeur du Bureau des Mines de Québec. Parfaitement
bilingue, dès sa jeunnesse, Bertrand fit ses études d'abord au
Boys High School de Québec, d'où il sortit à l'âge
de 15 ans pour entrer à l'Université McGill, d'où il
gradua en génie miier avac spécialité en géologie
à l'âge de 20 ans. Au cours des années 1924, 25
et 26, il fit un stage d'études en vue d'un doctorat en géologie
à l'Université de Genève. De 1927 à
1929, il dut interrompre ses études pour faire partie d'une
équipe d'exploration en Rhodésie du Nord pour le compte de
l'Anglo American Corporation dirigée par le Dr J.A.
Bancroft. C'est après son retour en 1929 qu'il poursuivit son
travail de thèse pour obtenir un PhD. de l'Université McGill en
| En 1929, il revint au Canada pour prendre
charge, au sein du Bureau des Mines de Québec, des services
d'exploration et d'exploitation minière. Jusqu'à la
fin de sa carrière active en 1964, le docteur Denis oeuvra dans le
secteur minier comme directeur, puis comme directeur général, et
enfin comme sous-ministre-adjoint responsable de toute l'administration des
activités minérales du Gouvernement du Québec.
| En plus d'être Fellow de la
Société Royale du Canada, le docteur Denis était membre de
l'Institut Canadien des Mines et de la Métallurgie. Il
était membre de l'Institut Canadien des Mines et de la
Métallurgie. Il était de plus actif dans plusieurs
organisations scientifiques et culturelles. Avec le Dr John A.
Dresser et T.C. Denis, il a contribué à la publication des
traités universellement connus de "La Géologie du
Québec." Il est de plus l'auteur de nombreux rapports
géologiques publiés à la suite d'expéditions sur le
terrain dans plusieurs régions mais plus particulièrement dans le
Précambrien canadien. Il est aussi l'auteur d'un rapport
détaillé des divers gisement de chromite de la province de
| En 1969, alors qu'il était à sa
retraite, le docteur Denis se rendit en Algérie puor le compte de la
Canadian Executive Service Overseas (CESO) afin de diférents services de
la Société Nationale de Recherches et d'Exploitations
Minières de l'Algérie.
| D'une culture peu ordinaire, le docteur Denis
parlais couramment le français, l'anglais, et l'espagnol, et
possédait assez le russe puor servir d'interprète à
l'occasion. Expert en photographie et spécialiste en mycologie, il a
contribué à la découverte et à l'identification de
nombreuses espèces de champignons décrits dans La Flore des
Champignons au Québec, par R. Pomeerleau.
| Le docteur Bertrand T. Denis était
marié à Yvette Montreuil, et il laisse un fils Robert,
marié à Maryse Jérome, ainsi que deux petits enfants
Jocelyn et Margot Denis.
|Proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada / Series IV /
Volume XXIII / 1985