Remembering Leon J. Rubin

The 100th anniversary of his birth – this November 22 – is an opportune time to remember Leon J. Rubin, a remarkable alum.

Rubin graduated as a chemical engineer from the Department in 1938, where a year later he obtained his Master’s degree. He then joined the Department as an instructor where he taught for six years and was in charge of the analytical and general chemistry program.

During this time he continued his postgraduate studies in the Department of Chemistry under Professor H.O.L. Fischer where he obtained his doctorate in the field of natural products (glyceryl ethers) in 1945.

In this same year, Rubin joined the staff of the Research Centre of Canada Packers Inc. He first worked on the synthesis of steroidal hormones and vitamin D. However, he was soon appointed Director of Research and held that post until January 1979.

Under his direction the Research Centre became Canada’s leading food laboratory and a world leader in research and development of food and industrial biological processes. With a staff of 85, it was the central research laboratory of Canada Packers and dealt with the main areas of the company’s business – meats, edible oils, general packing house processing, animal feeds, fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

On his retirement in January 1979, he rejoined our Department as Professor Emeritus and initiated the program in Food Engineering. Rubin was shortly joined by Levente Diosady, who became the professor of Food Engineering. They collaborated in setting up courses in food engineering and industrial biological processes, as well as established an active research program resulting in 53 papers and 19 patents.

Rubin remained actively involved in the program as a volunteer until his sudden death in 1993. He was a senior statesman in Canadian industrial research, and his advice was sought in industry, government and academia. His achievements were recognized by numerous national and international awards. He was a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, The Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Institute of Food Technologists. He was elected to the Engineering Alumni Association Hall of Distinction. He was awarded the Montreal Medal, John Labatt Ltd. Award, Charles Honey Awards of the Chemical Institute of Canada, William J. Eva Award of the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Science and Technology Award of the Canadian Meat Council.

Rubin was a cultured gentleman, a culinary expert (as well as food scientist), loved and respected by his students and colleagues. His memory is enforced by the Leon J. Rubin Scholarships – a major entrance scholarship to our Department established in his memory.