Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Did call of Great War end 'Henry Dawson the Philosopher' ?

After enrolling in a four year BA at Dalhousie University in the Fall of 1913, Martin Henry Dawson joined the Great War in the Fall of 1915 - and yet he graduated* with a BA granted in absentia in the Spring of 1916.

Martin Henry's selection of courses at Dal hadn't exhibited any inclination to a career in science or medicine - he had taken only the required basic chemistry class and one elective in basic biology.

He did have very good Maths, German and Latin which (albeit indirectly) would only help a future would be med student.

In his first two years at Dal (his only two years at Dal), he naturally couldn't have taken too many electives or advanced level courses.

The only elective he took two courses in - and one at the highest level (6) that he got to, before war called, was --- wait for it ----- philosophy !

Could it be that a career as a philosopher and a thinker lay before him ?

Interestingly, his marks were unusual poor in these philosophy courses - why he continued to take them then is an interesting mystery.

(On a personal note, my father was also embarked on a career as a philosopher before the Korean War suddenly called - he didn't resume that career until a decade later.)

In the Fall of 1919, Dawson enters McGill's med program.

By the time of the 1920-1921 calendar, he is indicated as a third year student in medicine - which would seem remarkable progress for someone with half a BA and with very little science.

It is true he was smart and hardworking.

And he was a genuine young hero to the grateful adults running McGill : winning an MC with citation for bravery during the war.

Perhaps more importantly he had spent a year at a very busy wartime base hospital as a private/orderly and his two wartime wounds had also meant he had spent two years in and out of hospitals and convalescent homes and before endless medical boards.

Dawson had gotten his medical acculturation, like most everything he ever got in life , 'the hard way' ....


*His older brother Howard has also entered Dalhousie the same year and at the same academic level as Martin Henry.

But despite finishing a good deal more courses than Martin (Howard had enrolled both in first year pre-Engineering and then first year pre Law) never got his BA when he left for the war about the same time.

Howard died fighting for his country's and university's values in that war.

Not granting him a BA before he went was really a small-minded mistake.

It could still be rectified by Dal, as we mark both one hundred years since the Great War and the 200th anniversary of the university itself...

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