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Geoff Rayner-Canham


Geoff Rayner-Canham

Geoff Rayner-Canham, Ph.D., F.C.I.C., F.R.S.C.

Professor Emeritus (Chemistry), Honorary Research Professor.

Email: grcanham@grenfell.mun.ca

Web Page: Link


In the 1930s, it was observed by a Cambridge academic that the biochemist, Professor F. Gowland Hopkins always picked the best students.  The academic’s colleague replied that it was not true; with the hormone of encouragement, Hopkins had enabled geese to become swans.  That has been my goal.  By aiming for excellence in innovative distance teaching, jointly with Deborah Wheeler, combined with a true enthusiasm for the subject, I have hoped to stimulate the ‘spark within’ my students.

I have had a particular interest in the teaching of inorganic chemistry, leading to the writing of the text:  Descriptive Inorganic Chemistry.  First published in 1995, and since acquiring a co-author, Tina Overton of the University of Leeds, UK, the book has become the best-selling text in its field, world-wide.  The text has been translated into Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Khmer.

My main area of research has been undertaken jointly with Marelene Rayner-Canham, that is: the lives and contributions of forgotten women chemists.  This research, so far, has resulted in 8 books, 4 invited book chapters, and 39 publications.

For about 30 years, I organized and presented a Chemistry is Everywhere! Show in the Grenfell Theatre to high school chemistry students from the western side of the island.  In total, about 20,000 students have seen the show.

Concerned that the most need was at schools in remote communities, I developed a mobile version.  Accompanied by one or two enthusiastic undergraduate science students, this Outreach continued over 20 years.  Travel has been by 50-year-old bush plane, speed boat, snowmobile, ATV, ice boat, fishing boat, and helicopter.  The Outreach has visited schools in every Labrador community; western and southern Newfoundland coastal communities; contiguous Quebec communities; and across Nunavut. 

Following from the Outreach, I have developed a passion for relating chemistry and chemical principles to Inuit life & culture.  Using research undertaken jointly with Chaim Christiana Andersen, the aim is to make chemistry a more appealing subject for Inuit students.

On-line Courses Taught

  • Chemistry 1810: Elements of Chemistry (Winter semesters)
  • Chemistry 1900: Chemistry and Everyday Life (Spring semesters)
  • Gender Studies 2001: Women and Science (Fall semesters)
  • Chemistry/Environmental Science 3261: Atmospheric Chemistry (alternate Winter semesters)


  • Lee Lorch Award, Canadian Association of University Teachers (2020-21).
  • CNIE-RCIE Awards Festival Committee, Award of Merit in the Instructional Design/Teaching and Learning stream for the distance course “Chemistry 1810: Elements of Chemistry” joint with Deborah Wheeler (2013). 
  • NSERC Award for Science Promotion (2010). 
  • Chemical Institute of Canada, Chemical Education Award (2008). 
  • 3M Teaching Fellowship Award (2007). 
  • Atlantic Provinces Council on the Sciences (APICS) Canpolar Science Communication Award (2006). 
  • President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, Memorial University (2005). 
  • Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Teaching Award (2003). 
  • F.A. Aldrich Award (Memorial University) for contributions to the Public Awareness of Science (1996). 

Current research

  • Contextualizing the teaching of chemistry within the framework of Inuit culture.
  • Researching the lives and contributions of forgotten women chemists.
  • Researching unrecognized linkages amongst the elements of the Periodic Table.

Grants received

  • For research on the history of women in science: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
  • For outreach funding: National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada PromoScience program; Chemical Institute of Canada Chemistry Education Fund, Esteem Women NL, Vale Ltd., NunatuKavut Council, QuickStart Fund.

Recent books

  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. Pioneers of the London School of Medicine for Women (1874-1947): Their Contributions and Interwoven Lives, SpringerNature, 2022.
  • Rayner-Canham, G. Patterns and Trends in the Periodic Table, World Scientific Publishing Ltd., 2020. 
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. Pioneering British Women Chemists: Their Lives and Contributions, World Scientific Publishing (Europe) Co. Ltd., 2020. 
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. A Chemical Passion: The Forgotten Saga of Chemistry at British Independent Girls’ Schools, 1820-1940, Institute of Education Press,2017. 
  • Rayner-Canham, G. & Overton, T.L. Descriptive Inorganic Chemistry: 6th Edition, W.H. Freeman Publishing Co., 2014.
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G., (eds.), Ainley. M. (deceased). Creating Complicated Lives: Women and Science at English-Canadian Universities, 1880-1980, McGill-Queen‘s University Press, 2012, publication supported by a grant from the Memorial University Subvention Fund. 

Recent publications

  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Out of Obscurity: Contextualizing Forgotten Women Chemists,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, in press.
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Mary “Polly” Porter (1886-1980): Pioneer Woman Crystallographer,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 46(1), 68-82 (2021).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Some Pioneering Canadian Women Chemists: Lives and Contributions,” Canadian Journal of Chemistry, 99, 661-667 (2021).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Edith Pechey and Professor Crum Brown: A Key Part of the Edinburgh Seven Saga,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 45(2), 84-90 (2020).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Women Chemists of the London School of Medicine for Women, 1874-1947,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 42, 126-132 (2017).
  • Rayner-Canham, G. & Rayner-Canham, M. “The Heuristic Method, Precursor of Guided Inquiry: Henry Armstrong and British Girls’ Schools, 1890–1920,” Journal of Chemical Education, 92(3), 463–466 (2015).
  • Rayner-Canham, G. “Periodic Patterns: the Group (n) and Group (n+10) linkage,” Foundations of Chemistry, 15, 229-237 (2013).
  • Rayner-Canham, G. “Relationships among the Transition Elements,” Foundations of Chemistry, 13, 223-232 (2011).
  • Rayner-Canham, G. “Isodiagonality in the Periodic Table,” Foundations of Chemistry, 13, 121-129 (2011).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Early Practical Chemistry at British Private Girls’ Schools,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 39(2), 131-137 (2014).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Chemistry in English Academic Girls’ Schools, 1880-1930,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 36(2), 68-74 (2011).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “The Teaching of Tertiary-Level Domestic Chemistry in England in the early 20th Century,” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry, 36(1), 35-42 (2011).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “British Women, Chemistry, and Poetry: Some Contextual Examples from the 1870s to the 1940s,” Journal of Chemical Education, 88, 726-730 (2011).

Popular articles

  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Polly Porter: Crystallography Pioneer,” Chem. World, 36-37 (May 2021).
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Snow: Making Life Possible in the Arctic,” Chem13 News, (December 2019), on-line, 4 pages.
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “The Arctic Atmosphere: Unique and Amazing,” Chem13 News, (September 2019), on-line, 4 pages.
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Chemistry of the Cure: Case Studies of Some Inuit Remedies,” Chem13 News, 10-13 (March 2019).
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “The Ulu: Chemistry and Inuit women’s culture,” Chem13 News, 12-14 (May 2019).
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Sea Ice: Essential for northern survival,” Chem13 News, 12-14 (February 2019).
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “PFOS: the Newest Arctic Pollutant,” Chem13 News, 13-15 (Nov. 2018).
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Soy Sauce – an Essential Inuit Condiment,” Chem13 News, 14-16 (Oct. 2018).
  • Andersen, C.C. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Ramah Bay – 7,000 Years of Aboriginal Culture – and Chemistry,” Chem13 News, 12-14 (Sept. 2018).
  • Rayner-Canham, M. & Rayner-Canham, G. “Forgotten Pioneers,” Chem. World, 8(12), 41 (2011).

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