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Hans Selye

Dr. Hans Selye
Dr. Selye honors Canada by choosing this country as his own
Dr. Hans Selye

Citation read at Dr. Selye's award ceremony:

This evening we present the Loyola Medal to a man who has profoundly changed attitudes throughout the medical world.

Dr. Selye’s work in experimental medicine at l’Universite de Montréal has opened up research in a field which has been long overlooked. I speak now, of course, of stress -- a phenomenon which touches all our lives. Not only has Dr. Selye discovered the importance of stress, he has taken measures through his writings to help us to cope with it. His widely-acclaimed book, Stress Without Distress, has assisted thousands of people to deal with stressful situations.

The essentials of Dr. Selye’s career cover six typewritten pages of his curriculum vitae. Even this is only a sparse list itemizing scholarly achievements, positions held, awards, honors, fellowships and dates spanning nearly fifty years. But from this data, we can draw a sound, if imperfect sketch of greatness.

Dr. Selye was born in Vienna in 1907, the son of a prominent doctor, in an age when the Austrian Empire had lost little of its imperial splendor. During the intellectually effervescent ’20s, the young Selye, at the age of 22, received his MD at the German University in Prague. By the time he was 35, he had received degrees and held teaching posts at the Université de Paris, the University of Rome, Johns Hopkins and McGill.

He then went to be an expert consultant to the office of the Surgeon-General of the U.S. Army. In the ’50s, he held a wide variety of posts in Latin America. During this period Dr. Selye was also director of the Université de Montréal’s Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, the directorship he holds today.

One could go one from here. There was the Rockefeller Research Fellowship, a consultancy in Calcutta, memberships in a score of world professional associations: The Associations of Cancer Research, the Aerospace Medical Association and Hungary's Centre for Coagulation of Blood, Capillar and Practical Research on Muscles -- to name just a few. We all know of his books and perhaps it's worth noting that at last count he had completed more than 1,200 articles relating to his field of study.

In short it would be a far simpler task to itemize what Dr. Selye has not done in his field, so impressive is his list of accomplishments. But it must be remembered too that Dr. Selye continues to work in his field.

The Loyola Medal, the top honor we can bestow, is awarded to the great, not so much for what they have done, but for what they are doing. Previous recipients include Paul-Émile Cardinal Leger and Therese Casgrain. They are examples of past accomplishment to be sure, but also of future potential. Dr. Selye is one of these. His work remains a vista, not a closed book.

The research findings of his institute hold great promise for mankind

Not long ago, Dr. Selye came to speak at the University. His words gave us a glimpse into his philosophy. He was speaking about mankind's over-reliance on the conventional view, and the dangers thereof. Dr. Selye said, “…the idea that the sun rises every morning and sets every evening is obvious -- but it is not true. It took enormous genius on the part of Galileo.”

Dr. Selye reveals his modus vivendi, I think: a readiness to buck the tide, to stand against the full force of conventional wisdom, a constant willingness to search for the new when lesser individuals seek refuge in the old. It is for this reason Dr., Selye stands in the halls of greatness.

The Loyola Medal is given to an outstanding Canadian, but Dr. Selye honors Canada by choosing this country as his own. We now hope he will honor us by receiving the Loyola Medal for 1976.

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