Margaret Newton (Ph.D)
Born in Montréal, April 20, 1887, Margaret Newton grew up on a farm in western Quebec. In 1918, she graduated with a
Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, the first woman to complete all the degree requirements at Macdonald College and one of
the first women in Canada to earn a degree in agriculture. She followed this with a Master of Science in 1919, also from
Macdonald College. She completed doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1922, becoming the first
Canadian woman to earn a Ph.D. in agriculture.
Dr. Newton began her career in research as an associate professor of biology at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1925, she
moved to Winnipeg to join the Federal Department of Agriculture’s Dominion Rust Research Laboratory as a senior plant
pathologist. She initiated annual stem rust surveys in western Canada and thereby demonstrated the diversity of races that
existed in rust populations. Her identification and description of the many distinct races of rust contributed enormously to the
body of scientific information required for the breeding of rust-resistant grains. Her research and publication of more than 40
scientific manuscripts played a substantive role in the control of wheat stem rust, a disease which destroyed at least 30 million
bushels of wheat a year in western Canada.
Dr. Newton’s contributions to science and agriculture brought her an international reputation, and her expertise was sought by
rust researchers in other grain-growing countries around the world. During her career, she represented Canada several times
at international scientific conventions in the U.S., Europe and Russia.
A renowned scientist, Dr. Newton received awards at the national and international level. She was elected as fellow of the
Royal Society of Canada in 1942, only the second woman to be so honoured. In 1948, she was awarded the Royal Society’s
Flavelle Medal, the first woman and also the first graduate of an agricultural college so honoured. In 1956, the University of
Minnesota presented her with its Outstanding Achievement Award, and in 1969, the University of Saskatchewan awarded her
an honorary Doctor of Laws. She was inducted into the Canadian Science Hall of Fame in 1991.
Dr. Newton retired early due to poor health, likely brought about by long exposure to mould and rust spores. Farmers and the
prairie grain industry successfully petitioned the government of the day to grant her full pension in recognition of the millions
of dollars her work had saved them.
Dr. Margaret Newton is remembered as an important contributor to Canada’s world-renowned wheat industry. As a pioneer
in agricultural research, she made a significant contribution to the economy of western Canada.