Brockhouse was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Hamilton’s pro-life community lost two of its foremost supporters recently, including one who was famous on a world scale.

Described by the Hamilton Spectator newspaper as a “heroic” and “larger-than-life” figure in the field of physics, Dr. Bertram Brockhouse died on Oct. 13 at the age of 85. In 1994, he had shared the coveted Nobel Prize for Physics for the development of neutron-scattering techniques, which helped reveal the structure and movement of atoms. He was also widely recognized for his pioneering studies of condensed matter and for the development of neutron spectroscopy.

Among his other honours were being named as a Companion of the Order of Canada, as well as receiving the Tory Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society, the Duddell Medal and Prize of the British Institute of Physics and Physical Society, the Centennial Medal of Canada and the Guggenheim Fellowship. He remains a member of the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

Despite all the accolades, Brockhouse, a native of Lethbridge, Alta., was noted for being “a quiet man who lived a mostly quiet life” and for his humility. A current McMaster University physics professor recalls that after the 1994 Nobel Prize was announced, Brockhouse commented that “he used to believe his work wasn’t very important, but that he may have to change his mind.”

Less known to the wider world, however, was Brockhouse’s strong backing for the pro-life cause. His wife Doris, who was a co-founder, past-president and active member of the Hamilton Right to Life organization throughout its history, noted that she couldn’t have been involved in pro-life work to the extent she was without her husband’s unfailing support. In addition to Bertram’s busy career, the couple also had to cope with raising six children and 10 grandchildren in the Hamilton suburb of Ancaster.

“He felt very strongly about the whole (pro-life) issue,” she said. “He was a tremendous supporter and I certainly appreciated it. He placed tremendous value on the sanctity of human life.”

Doris noted that her husband also served on the board of directors of Hamilton Right to Life for one year, despite maintaining a busy schedule of lecture and interview requests even into his retirement. He was a regular attendee at annual Hamilton Right to Life dinners, even in recent years as his health began to decline.

Another Hamilton pro-lifer who passed away recently was Tom Furlong, described by his compatriots as “a hard man to keep from doing what he was called to do.”

Furlong, 76, was a picketing fixture outside the Shire Pharmaceuticals company in Oakville, in the days when that firm was a Canadian distributor of the abortifacient “emergency contraceptive,” Preven. Although legally blind due to a macro-degeneration of the eyes and having problems with his knees, Furlong is credited with playing a role in Shire’s decision to eventually withdraw Preven from the Canadian market.

He was also a regular picketer outside Hamilton’s McMaster University Medical Centre, which commits abortions. Often braving wind, rain, snow and blizzards, Furlong was sometimes harassed by local students. That didn’t deter him, however, and he continued picketing until earlier this year, when he suffered a knee injury.

Late this past summer, Furlong suffered a cardio-vascular accident and never regained consciousness. He passed away on Oct. 8, surrounded by his family at Hamilton General Hospital in Hamilton. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lucy, seven children, two grandchildren, and two more grandchildren not yet born.

His fellow pro-lifers describe Furlong as a great example of perseverance for all. He was known as a man who did what he could do as a witness for life.