Steven Turner

Professor Emeritus in History

Convocation, Oct. 20, 2011

From 1971 to 2010, throughout 39 years as the historian of science at the University of New Brunswick, Steven Truner was such a productive researcher, distinguished teacher, and able administrator that in all three areas – research, teaching, and service – he set the highest possible standards of professionalism and dedication to the purposes of the university.

Dr. Turner’s record as a research scholar in the history of science is outstanding.  He has reviewed dozens of academic books, evaluated innumerable manuscripts and research applications, read over 50 papers at national and international scholarly conferences, and published 35 scholarly articles and book chapters. After completing his Princeton PhD dissertation on 19th century German university reform, Dr. Turner turned to the 19th century German controversy over the physics of vision, producing a highly praised book, In the Eye’s Mind: Vision and the Helmholtz-Hering Controversy, published by Princeton University Press in 1994. Recently, he has chosen to engage in more contemporary research, focussing on the history of agricultural biotechnology and genetic research on the potato in Canada and New Brunswick. Recognized as a “big thinker”, Dr. Turner has regularly been invited to comment on papers on the state of the field of the history and philosophy of science. He has held numerous research grants from German and American granting agencies, the Canada Council, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as well as an Alexander von Humbolt Fellowship.

Also a scholar of the history of pedagogy, Dr. Turner was one of the history department’s best teachers. Instructing students from arts, engineering, science, nursing, and education, Dr. Turner made the history of science, including the significance of Darwin and Einstein, comprehensible to all. His remarkable pedagogical talent was recognized in 1995 when he gained the University’s highest teaching award, the Allan P. Stuart Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2006 when he received the Arts Faculty Teaching Award. His mentorship of others in the craft of university education was acknowledged in 2007 when he gained the title of University Teaching Scholar.  In that capacity, Dr. Turner made several presentations to educators on why the teaching of science still matters.  

His colleagues as well as his students reciprocate the high respect that he has shown them. An advisor and mentor for many junior colleagues and graduate students, and a wonderful colleague and friend, Dr. Turner has excelled in administrative service, as the history department’s director of graduate studies, and as departmental chair (1993 to 1996).  He has held a daunting number of university positions, including that of university orator, chair of the Forging our Futures Campaign, and, most recently was a member of the AUNBT Fulltime Negotiating Team. Steve’s calm demeanour, clear thinking, and sage advice have been deeply appreciated in a vast range of committees, as have his good humour and sensitive approach to achieving consensus. Even in retirement he is the chair of the Research Ethics Committee, a commitment which reflects Dr. Turner’s generosity of spirit.  Beyond the university he has served long and tirelessly on the executive of the New Brunswick SPCA, of which he was for many years vice-president or president.

Dr. Turner’s contributions to historical scholarship, to higher education in  history and Science, to the education of thousands of UNB students, and to the broader UNB and New Brunswick communities have been profound.  His achievements will long be remembered.  In every way Dr. Steven Turner deserves the title of Professor Emeritus.

(Please note:  a shorter version of this citation was delivered at the Convocation ceremony).