Bruce Torrie

Thursday, May 6, 2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Bruce Torrie, a faculty member of the Department of Physics & Astronomy for 38 years. He retired on July 1, 2003 after which he became Professor Emeritus with adjunct faculty status in the Department. 

Bruce earned his B.A.Sc. degree at the University of Toronto in 1959 and his Ph.D. degree at McMaster University in 1963.  Following this, he accepted a post-doctoral appointment at the Harwell Research Laboratory in England.  He joined the Department of Physics at the University of Waterloo on December 1, 1965 as an Assistant Professor.  He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1969 and to Full Professor in 1990. 

Bruce’s research fields were Raman and Infrared Spectroscopy and Neutron Scattering.  He published 75 papers in these areas and was the supervisor of 10 M.Sc. and 16 Ph.D. students at UW, as well as many undergraduates doing research projects. As he entered retirement, Bruce continued to be active in research, studying methane hydrates, or “the ice that burns”.  The basic idea is that a mixture of methane and water, for example, will form an ice-like solid if the pressure is high and the temperature is low. These substances are found naturally in coastal trenches and under permafrost. In Canada, this means on the ocean floor west of Vancouver Island and under the permafrost in the delta of the Mackenzie River." Bruce worked at the National Research Council in Ottawa and Chalk River, using neutron beam diffraction studies to determine the arrangement, motion, and structure of the atoms and molecules that make up gas hydrates.

Bruce was an instructor in many of our undergraduate courses, including Introductory Physics to first-year Engineering students, Optics and Modern Physics to Physics students, and the Science course called the "Physics of Music", which was also given as a Distance Education course.  His interests in music were quite varied and thoughtful, and he attended many concerts. He also loved to travel, and was involved in the Unitarian faith community in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Bruce was a model academic citizen, serving the Department and the University in several administrative roles. He was president of the Faculty Association from 1976-77, Director of the Guelph-Waterloo Program for Graduate Work in Physics from 1993-96, and again from 2001-02, and the local organizer of the annual Canadian Association of Physicists Congress conference when it was held at UW in 1996.  Active on the Department Graduate Committee, the UW Faculty Association for many years,  and as treasurer of the UW Retirees Association, Bruce exemplified academic service, providing a model that all could aspire to.

A gentleman in every sense of the word, a consummate team player, and a thoughtful scientist, Bruce was one of the founding members of our Department, arriving when it was only a few years old.  He helped establish a tone of collegiality in our ranks that persists to this day.

Bruce leaves behind his wife Tui (his first wife Elinore predeceased him), two children Lynn and Neil (his other daughter, Sheila, also predeceased him) and 6 grandchildren.

No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of Bruce.