Famous Canadian Scientists

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Imagine your life sans your smartphone – impractical isn’t it? Such has been the influence of telecommunication technology in our modern world that we have become slaves to the device. For every thick and thin of matters, we switch to our smartphone, whether it is checking time or calling people. But a few centuries down the line, things weren’t the same. In fact, it would have still continued the same way had it not been for Alexander Graham Bell, who gave the world the first practical telephone, thus starting a legacy that survives gloriously even today. A British born scientists, he also owned a Canadian citizenship. Nobel laureate Michael Smith was British-born Canadian scientist who was known for his work in developing site-directed mutagenesis. Robert William Boyle was a Canadian scientist who was a pioneer in the field of sonar. However, that isn’t it all. Not just men, Canadian women too have left a lasting impression in the field of science with their glorious works. Remember Roberta Bondar, the first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space or Irene Ayako Uchida, a Canadian scientist who researched on Down syndrome? Canadian scientists have significantly contributed in the field of science through their research and work. Get a brief update about their life, career and works in this section.
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 1 
Frederick Banting
(Co-Discoverer of Insulin)
Frederick Banting
14
Birthdate: November 14, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Alliston, New Tecumseth, Canada
Died: February 21, 1941

Frederick Banting was a Canadian medical scientist and physician. In 1923, Banting and Scottish biochemist John James Rickard Macleod received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of insulin and its therapeutic potential. Aged 32 at that time, Banting remains the youngest Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine. He was knighted by King George V in 1934.

 2 
Julie Payette
(29th Governor General of Canada Who Served from 2017 to 2021)
Julie Payette
13
Birthdate: October 20, 1963
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian engineer and astronaut Julie Payette has been the Governor General of Canada from 2017 to 2021. She was initially a research scientist and then joined the Canadian Space Agency, eventually completing two spaceflights. Payette resigned as governor general after a workplace review accused her of workplace harassment.
 3 
David Suzuki
(Canadian Academic, Environmental Activist and Host of TV Program ‘The Nature of Things’)
David Suzuki
6
Birthdate: March 24, 1936
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vancouver, Canada
Best known for the CBC show The Nature of Things, Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki has also been a genetics and zoology professor. The UN Environment Programme Medal winner has been a major force against global warming and has written several books, such as An Introduction to Genetic Analysis.
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 4 
Louis Slotin
(Canadian Physicist and Chemist Who Took Part in the Manhattan Project)
Louis Slotin
5
Birthdate: December 1, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Canada
Died: May 30, 1946
While showing his colleagues how to work on a plutonium bomb, Canadian scientist Louis Slotin was exposed to a lethal radioactive dose that first caused him to vomit and then die 9 days later. He had, however, reportedly shielded his colleagues from maximum exposure, thus saving their lives.
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 5 
Wilder Penfield
(Surgeon, Neuroscientist, Neurosurgeon, University teacher, Neurologist)
Wilder Penfield
6
Birthdate: January 26, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Spokane
Died: April 5, 1976

Neuroscientist Wilder Penfield redefined medical science with his innovative way of treating epilepsy patients through surgery. He would note down his patients’ responses when they would be conscious under local anesthesia. He also founded the Montreal Neurological Institute, but was unable to cure his sister’s brain cancer.

 6 
Roberta Bondar
(Astronaut & Neurologist)
Roberta Bondar
3
Birthdate: December 4, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sault Ste. Marie, Canada

Canadian neurologist, educator, scientist, astronaut and photographer Roberta Bondar CC OOnt FRCPC FRSC is noted as the first female astronaut and the first neurologist of Canada to travel into space. She flew as part of the Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-42 and performed over forty experiments in Spacelab. She later served as head of an international team of researchers at NASA.

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 7 
James Gosling
(Programmer, Inventor, Computer scientist)
James Gosling
12
Birthdate: May 19, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Calgary

James Gosling earned the nickname Dr. Java after he revolutionized the world of computer programming with his Java programming language. The Carnegie Mellon alumnus has had a 26-year stint with Sun Microsystems. The computer nerd has a picture of the first 1000 digits of √2 framed in his office.

 8 
Manjul Bhargava
(Mathematician)
Manjul Bhargava
7
Birthdate: August 8, 1974
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Hamilton, Canada
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 9 
Donna Strickland
(Optical Physicist, Pioneer in the Field of Pulsed Lasers and Winner of 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics Winner)
Donna Strickland
4
Birthdate: May 27, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Guelph, Canada

Donna Strickland is a Canadian optical physicist who is considered a pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. In recognition of her research on the practical implementation of chirped pulse amplification, she was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, together with Gérard Mourou. She is currently a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. 

 10 
Frances Oldham Kelsey
(Canadian-American Pharmacologist Known for Preventing 'Thalidomide' From Being Marketed in the United States)
Frances Oldham Kelsey
4
Birthdate: July 24, 1914
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cobble Hill, British Columbia, Canada
Died: August 7, 2015

As part of the FDA, Frances Oldham Kelsey prevented thalidomide from being allowed in the US drug market as a painkiller, as she was unsure of its impact. Her concerns were proved right when the drug caused birth defects in European children. She was subsequently awarded by the US president.

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 11 
John Urschel
(Mathematician)
John Urschel
10
Birthdate: June 24, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Winnipeg, Canada

Part of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list of young scientists, Canadian-American mathematician John Urschel has previously had an illustrious football career as part of the NFL team Baltimore Ravens. He played with the Ravens without revealing that he was a full-time graduate student at MIT.

 12 
Oswald Avery
(Biologist, Physician, Geneticist)
Oswald Avery
4
Birthdate: October 21, 1877
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Halifax
Died: February 20, 1955

A pioneer of molecular biology, Oswald Avery revolutionized science with his research on the chemical processes involved in immunology. The Canadian-American bacteriologist initially aspired to be a musician. He later proved that DNA was the basis of heredity. Though nominated for the Nobel Prize multiple times, he never won it.

 13 
Gerald Bull
(Aerospace engineer, Engineer, Inventor)
Gerald Bull
4
Birthdate: March 9, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ontario
Died: March 22, 1990

Gerald Vincent Bull was a Canadian artillery expert, known for designing Project Babylon supergun for the Government of Iraq. His idea was to do away with the conventional rockets by firing satellites into orbit from a 156m-long barrel embedded inside a hill. However, his assassination within two years of the start of the project put an end to it.  

 14 
Brian Kernighan
(Best Known as the Co-Author of First Book on 'C-Programming Language' and Co-Developer of 'Unix')
Brian Kernighan
4
Birthdate: January 1, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Princeton alumnus Brian Kernighan had a 30-year stint at the Bell Laboratories before returning to his alma mater as a professor. The Canadian computer scientist has played a major role in the development of Unix and has also co-authored the first book on the C programming language.

 15 
Rob Pike
(Canadian Programmer Best Known for His Work on the 'Go Programming Language' and 'Plan 9' Operating System)
Rob Pike
3
Birthdate: 1956 AD
Birthplace: Canada

Best known as the co-designer of the Go programming language, computer programmer Rob Pike has had an illustrious stint with the Bell Labs and now works with Google. He was also part of the Unix development team and has co-written books such as The Practice of Programming.

 16 
Rudolf Vrba
(Former biochemist became known for having escaped from the camp in April 1944, at the height of the Holocaust)
Rudolf Vrba
3
Birthdate: September 11, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Topoľčany, Slovakia
Died: March 27, 2006
 17 
Stephen Cook
(American-Canadian Computer Scientist and Mathematician)
Stephen Cook
3
Birthdate: December 14, 1939
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States

A.M. Turing Award-winning American-Canadian computer scientist Stephen Cook is known for his contribution to the development of the computational complexity theory and laid down the Cook–Levin theorem. The Harvard alumnus has also taught at institutes such as the University of Toronto. He is also an avid sailor and violinist.

 18 
Rasmus Lerdorf
(Canadian Programmer Who Co-authored and Inspired the PHP Scripting Language)
Rasmus Lerdorf
3
Birthdate: November 22, 1968
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland

Rasmus Lerdorf was the brain behind the PHP scripting language, which flourished from his personal home page and became an open-source language used worldwide. Born in Greenland, he later moved to Denmark, before settling in Canada, and has had a successful stint with companies such as Yahoo! and Etsy.

 19 
Keith L. Moore
(Biologist)
Keith L. Moore
3
Birthdate: October 5, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brantford, Canada
Died: December 6, 2019

A legend of anatomy, Keith L. Moore was also one of the founders of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists. The author of books such as Before We Are Born, Moore was also known for his study on the scientific accuracy of statements related to embryology mentioned in the Quran.

 20 
Kenneth E. Iverson
(Computer Scientist)
Kenneth E. Iverson
2
Birthdate: December 17, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Camrose, Canada
Died: October 19, 2004
 21 
Arthur B. McDonald
(Physicist, University teacher)
Arthur B. McDonald
3
Birthdate: August 29, 1943
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sydney

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald is remembered for his research on neutrino oscillations and for proving that neutrinos have mass. He spent most of his life teaching at the Princeton and Queen’s universities. He also headed a project that mass-produced low-cost ventilators to be used as COVID-19 supplies.

 22 
Yoshua Bengio
(Computer scientist, and Artificial intelligence researcher)
Yoshua Bengio
0
Birthdate: March 5, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
 23 
Erik Demaine
(Mathematician, Computer scientist, University teacher)
Erik Demaine
3
Birthdate: February 28, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Halifax
A child prodigy, Erik Demaine entered university at 12 and completed his PhD at 20, in spite of being homeschooled. He then joined the MIT computer science faculty, becoming the institute’s youngest professor. A computational origami expert, he has appeared in documentaries such as The Origami Revolution and written several books.
 24 
Donald O. Hebb
(Psychologist best known for his theory of Hebbian learning, which he introduced in his classic 1949 work The Organization of Behavior)
Donald O. Hebb
3
Birthdate: July 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died: August 20, 1985

Though born to physicians, Donald O. Hebb had initially aspired to be a novelist. He later pioneered neuropsychology by merging elements of psychology and neuroscience, and thus establishing psychology as part of bio science. His iconic work The Organization of Behavior spoke about many innovate concepts such as Hebb’s Rule.

 25 
Andrej Karpathy
(Director of artificial intelligence and Autopilot Vision at Tesla)
Andrej Karpathy
0
Birthdate: October 23, 1986
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Košice Kosice, Slovakia
 26 
Hubert Reeves
(Popularizer of science, Astrophysicist, Science writer)
Hubert Reeves
3
Birthdate: July 13, 1932
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Montreal

Known as “The Poet of the Stars,” Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves has been a NASA advisor. His research covers neutrinos and thermonuclear reactions in stars. Having penned numerous science and astronomy books such as Soleil, he is known as a popularizer of science and has an asteroid named after him.

 27 
Hugh Ross
(astronomer, physicist)
Hugh Ross
3
Birthdate: July 24, 1945
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Montreal

Equipped with a PhD in astronomy, Hugh Ross had been a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. However, he later focused on studying the link between scientific discoveries and their biblical explanations, and formed the ministry Reasons to Believe. He has written books, hosted podcasts, and attended events, speaking about progressive creationism.

 28 
Simon Newcomb
(Astronomer, Mathematician, Economist, Novelist, Writer, Teacher, University teacher, Science fiction writer)
Simon Newcomb
3
Birthdate: March 12, 1835
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Nova Scotia
Died: July 11, 1909

Initially a herbalist’s apprentice, Simon Newcomb later deviated to mathematics and astronomy. Born to a schoolteacher, he had loved math since age 5 but wasn’t formally educated. He later joined Harvard University, taught math at the US Navy, detected locations of celestial bodies, and wrote a science-fiction novel, too.

 29 
Albert W. Tucker
(Mathematician, Topologist, University teacher)
Albert W. Tucker
3
Birthdate: November 28, 1905
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ontario
Died: January 25, 1995

Canadian mathematician Albert W. Tucker is remembered for his contribution to the field of operations research, primarily non-linear programming and game theory. The Princeton alumnus was also associated with Harvard as a research fellow and later taught math at Princeton. John Nash was one of his PhD students.

 30 
W. T. Tutte
(British-Canadian Mathematician Best Known for His Work on Code-Breaking in World War II)
W. T. Tutte
3
Birthdate: May 14, 1917
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Newmarket, Suffolk, England
Died: May 2, 2002

Born to working-class parents who were employed with the upkeep of the Fitzroy House stables, W. T. Tutte completed his high school studies on scholarships. Initially interested in physical chemistry, he later focused on math and became a genius codebreaker. He deciphered several intricate German military codes, such as FISH.

 31 
Charles Best
(Co-discoverer of Insulin)
Charles Best
3
Birthdate: February 27, 1899
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: West Pembroke, Pembroke, Maine, United States
Died: March 31, 1978

Charles Best made history with his discovery of insulin, along with Sir Frederick Banting, thus paving the path for its use as a treatment for diabetes. He, however, failed to get the 1923 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, like Banting, as he didn’t receive his medical degree till 1925.

 32 
Robert Langlands
(Mathematician, University teacher)
Robert Langlands
3
Birthdate: October 6, 1936
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Westminster

Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands is best known for his Langlands program. The Yale alumnus later taught at Yale and Princeton. His contributions include research on number theory and representation theory, and he has received several honors, including an Abel Prize and the Order of Canada.

 33 
Theo de Raadt
(Computer scientist, Engineer, Network engineer, Programmer)
Theo de Raadt
3
Birthdate: May 19, 1968
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pretoria

Born to a South African mother and a Dutch father in Pretoria, Theo de Raadt later moved to Canada with his family. The software engineer founded the OpenBSD and OpenSSH operating system networks and also contributed to NetBSD. He has also formed the Internet Exchange YYCIX in Calgary.

 34 
Brenda Milner
(Neuroscientist, Psychologist, University teacher)
Brenda Milner
4
Birthdate: July 15, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Manchester

Considered a pioneer in her field, centenarian neuropsychologist Brenda Milner is known for her immense contribution to clinical neuropsychology. Especially known for her work on memory and cognition, she has contributed immensely to the study of temporal lobe. Her papers on the frontal lobes in problem-solving and the lateralization of hemispheric function in language are also highly regarded by scholars.

 35 
Michael Smith (Chemist)
2
Birthdate: April 26, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Blackpool, England
Died: October 4, 2000

Nobel Prize-winning British-Canadian biochemist Michael Smith is best remembered for his research on site-directed mutagenesis, which has paved the path for further research on topics such as gene therapy and Alzheimer disease. A professor of biotechnology and biochemistry, he later co-founded the biotechnology company ZymoGenetics Inc.

 36 
Richard E. Taylor
2
Birthdate: November 2, 1929
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Died: February 22, 2018

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian physicist and Stanford professor Richard E. Taylor is best remembered for revolutionizing particle physics by discovering quarks, which make up matter. He was also associated with the designing of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

 37 
Alfred Aho
(Computer scientist, Engineer, Programmer)
Alfred Aho
3
Birthdate: August 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Timmins

Alfred Aho is a Canadian computer scientist. He is best known for his work on compilers, programming languages, and related algorithms. He is the author of several popular textbooks on the art and science of computer programming. Along with his long-time collaborator Jeffrey Ullman, he was awarded the 2020 Turing Award, one of the most prestigious awards in computer science. 

 38 
Endel Tulving
(Neuroscientist, Psychologist)
Endel Tulving
3
Birthdate: May 26, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pechory

Endel Tulving is an Estonian-born Canadian experimental psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist. He is best known for his pioneering research on human memory. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and began his academic work at the University of Toronto, where he remained for the rest of his career. He is a recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award. 

 39 
Shirley M. Tilghman
(Molecular biologist, University teacher, Biochemist)
Shirley M. Tilghman
3
Birthdate: September 17, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Toronto

Shirley Marie Tilghman, the nineteenth President of Princeton University, currently the Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs, is considered to be one of the most influential female scientists of our time. Although she is no longer involved in active research she is known for her contributions in the fields of molecular genetics, especially in genomic imprinting.

 40 
Rudolph A. Marcus
2
Birthdate: July 21, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Rudolph A. Marcus redefined science with his Marcus theory, which explained electron transfer reactions and thus threw light on reactions such as photosynthesis. The Canadian-American chemist won a Nobel Prize for his work and also contributed to the transition-state theory. He now teaches at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

 41 
Nima Arkani-Hamed
(American-Canadian Theoretical Physicist and Academician)
Nima Arkani-Hamed
0
Birthdate: April 5, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

Iranian-origin American-Canadian theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed is known for his studies on the link between theory and experiment, with special focus on topics such as string theory, quantum field theory, and cosmology. He has also taught at prestigious institutes such as Cornell and Harvard and has won awards such as the Sackler Prize.

 42 
Sidney Altman
(Molecular Biologist)
Sidney Altman
2
Birthdate: May 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Known for his independent work on ribonucleic acid (RNA), molecular biologist Sidney Altman co-won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering that RNA, which was thought to be a passive carrier of genetic codes, is also capable of taking up active enzymatic functions. The discovery is significant in that it forced scientists to reexamine traditional theories on cellular functions.  

 43 
Paul Churchland
(Philosopher)
Paul Churchland
3
Birthdate: October 21, 1942
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Vancouver, Canada

Canadian philosopher and academic Paul Churchland is best known for his research on eliminative materialism. Born to a science teacher father, he was obsessed with science fiction and initially aspired to become an aerodynamical engineer. He later studied philosophy and became a significant figure in the field of neurophilosophy.  

 44 
Hans Moravec
(Computer Scientist Known for His Work on Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Writings on the Impact of Technology)
Hans Moravec
3
Birthdate: November 30, 1948
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kautzen, Austria

An adjunct faculty member at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, Hans Peter Moravec is mostly known for his work on artificial intelligence. He firmly believed that the robots would overtake humans in near future. He has published multiple works including Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence and Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind on the subject. .

 45 
John Polanyi
(Canadian Chemist and Winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
John Polanyi
2
Birthdate: January 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

John Charles Polanyi is a Hungarian-Canadian scientist, who won the Noble Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to the dynamics of chemical reaction. He developed a technique called infrared chemiluminescence, which helped him to study the exchange of chemical bonds and detail how the excess energy is removed during chemical reactions.

 46 
Louis Nirenberg
(Mathematician considered one of the most outstanding mathematicians of the 20th century.)
Louis Nirenberg
3
Birthdate: February 28, 1925
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hamilton, Canada
Died: January 26, 2020

Louis Nirenberg was a Canadian-American mathematician. He is counted as one of the most outstanding mathematicians of the 20th century. He specialized in the field of partial differential equations. He extensively collaborated with Shmuel Agmon and Avron Douglis to extend the Schauder theory. He was the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Bôcher Memorial Prize. 

 47 
Willard Boyle
(Physicist, Inventor, Photographer)
Willard Boyle
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Amherst
Died: May 7, 2011

Willard Boyle revolutionized physics with the invention of the charge-coupled device (CCD), which also earned him, and his co-inventor George E. Smith, a Nobel Prize. During his time at Bellcomm, he was associated with the Apollo space program. Both he and Smith worked for Bell Laboratories, too.

 48 
Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter
(One of the Greatest Geometers of the 20th Century)
Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter
2
Birthdate: February 9, 1907
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England
Died: March 31, 2003

British-Canadian mathematician Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter is regarded as one of the most influential geometers ever born. He showed immense skill in both math and music as a child. During his 6 decades at the University of Toronto, he wrote several books. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society.

 49 
Gerhard Herzberg
(Physical Chemist, Physicist)
Gerhard Herzberg
2
Birthdate: December 25, 1904
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hamburg, Imperial Germany
Died: March 3, 1999

German-Canadian physicist Gerhard Herzberg is remembered for his Nobel Prize-winning work on ascertaining the electronic structure of molecules, particularly free radicals. He had escaped to Canada following the rise of the Nazis and later also worked in the U.S. His doctoral students included Japanese chemist Takeshi Oka.

 50 
Henry Taube
(Chemist)
Henry Taube
2
Birthdate: November 30, 1915
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Neudorf, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died: November 16, 2005

Nobel Prize-winning Canadian-American chemist Henry Taube is best remembered for his research on electron-transfer reactions. Apart from teaching at reputed institutes such as Cornell and Stanford, Taube also became a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was also an ardent fan of classical music and loved gardening, too.