William Harrison Cook

William Harrison Cook

1903 - 1998

Born in Alnwick England in 1903 William Harrison Cook moved to Canada at the age of eight where he was raised on an Alberta farmstead. It was on this farmstead where Mr. Cook developed an interest in agriculture which influenced his choice in education. He first began his education at the School of Agriculture in Claresholm, Alberta before moving to the University of Alberta and finally Stanford University where he graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

During his studies Mr. Cook met Robert Newton, a plant biochemist. Mr. Cook assisted the man with his research on the drying of damp wheat, the crop’s winter hardiness and it’s resistance to rust. Robert Newton brought Mr. Cook to work in the biology division of the National Research Council due to their impressive work together.

Early in his career Mr. Cook focused mainly on constant condition chambers. These were refrigerated greenhouses that could mimic farming conditions in the prairies. During the second World War Mr. Cook’s work garnered a lot of interest. Mr. Cook’s innovations were adapted so that freighters could be turned temporarily into refrigerated food ships over the course of one evening.

Mr. Cook experienced many honours during the war thanks to the appreciation his innovations received. In 1941, he was appointed the Director of Biology in the National Research Council. As director, as well as because of his work refrigerating war ships, Mr. Cook was expected to research the preservation and transportation of various goods such as bacon, poultry and eggs.

At the end of the war Mr. Cook worked to make the food research laboratories at the National Research Council more organized and effective. After many years of hard work and research for the council he retired in 1974. He also retired from his post as director general of the Canadian sector of the International Biological Program in 1976 and enjoyed a lengthy retirement until his death in 1998.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture