It is hard to imagine a time when a science student did not have exposure to the laboratory, and to the scientific instruments that reside there.
It was only in the last decades of the 19th century that laboratory instruction came to be such an essential component of science education in Canadian universities.

It was James Loudon, professor of physics at the University of Toronto, who championed the cause. In 1878 he was successful in establishing the first undergraduate teaching laboratories in Canada, including, notably, a teaching laboratory for physics. The physics laboratory was located in the University College building, pictured here in 1900.

Though this trend towards laboratory instruction had been ongoing in European universities, there was resistance to the change. The class of people who sent their sons (and only rarely, daughters) to be educated at the University of Toronto expected their children to receive the liberal arts education considered appropriate for future lawyers, doctors, and ministers. Courses in physics and mathematics were seen as part of that broad education, alongside philosophy and languages. Laboratory work, though, was seen as appropriate for technical training, not for the science education of the elites.

In the traditional curriculum, science courses took place in lecture halls, where the instructor might have instruments to demonstrate the concepts and phenomena of science.

In the new science curriculum, undergraduates would get hands-on experience with scientific instruments. The new undergraduate teaching laboratories required the purchase of new instruments from the large instrument makers of Germany and France.

Many of the instruments used by the students in the new labs were similar to the demonstration instruments used by their professors at the front of the lecture theatre. But there were new instruments making it into the laboratories, instruments designed not merely for demonstration, but for experimentation. With these, students were introduced to the techniques of the experimental method.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen

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