Colonel William Robert Lang

Biography of Colonel William Robert Lang

William Robert Lang was born on 29th July 1870 at Cadder. His father, John, was a muslin manufacturer and the family lived at 9 Crown Gardens, Dowanhill, Glasgow. In 1885, when he was just fifteen, William matriculated at the University of Glasgow to study science. It was to be the beginning of a very distinguished academic career. In his first year he took classes in Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry. He continued to enrol for classes in these subjects, as well as Geology and Astronomy, in the years from 1885 to 1889 and graduated BSc two years later, on 24th April 1891.

He married Daisy Hollington and went out to Canada to pursue his interest in Chemistry, rising to the position of Professor of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. When he returned to the University of Glasgow on 18th April 1899 it was as an established academic, to receive the distinction of Doctor of Science. His list of publications expanded and came to include The Action of Liquified Amonia on Chromic Chloride (1904) and The Chemical Industries of the Dominion.

William Lang made a significant contribution to the war effort. He was the first commanding officer of the University of Toronto contingent of the Canadian Officers Training Corps and commanded it during and after the First World War (1914-1925). He was appointed to the Canadian General Staff in 1914 and among other responsibilities was in charge of Coast Defence in the Maritimes in 1918. He was involved in the relief and reconstruction of Halifax, Nova Scotia, following the 6th December 1917 explosion there, when the Belgian ship, the Imo collided with the French steamship Mont Blanc, laden with tons of TNT, gun cotton and benzol in a crowded wartime harbour. With a loss of 2,000 lives, and widespread destruction of property it was the largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima.

He had a full life, as academic and soldier, as evidenced by his many titles and awards. He was Professor and Colonel Lang, BSc, DSc, FCS, FIC, VD, but had time for other interests. He was President of the Canadian Operatic Society and a family man.



Colonel William Robert Lang
Rank: Colonel
Regiment: General Staff - Canadian Forces
Degree: DSc
Awards: N/A
Comments: N/A
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: N/A


University of Glasgow Registry, Faculty and General Council Records

Biography: Canadian biographical information contributed by Daniel William Peat, Colonel Lang’s grandson

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