University of Saskatchewan

September 17, 2014   

Distinguished Researchers - 1999

Robert W. Besant
   Spring, 1999
Robert W. Besant
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

The Distinguished Researcher Award recognizes a faculty member's contribution to scholarship through the creation, expansion and critique of knowledge through research and publication. The University has selected Robert W. Besant, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, as the Spring 1999 recipient of this award.

Professor Besant holds a Bachelor of Science (1957) from the University of Manitoba and a Master of Science in Engineering from Princeton University (1959). He joined the U of S faculty in 1960. He became head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1982 and served for 11 years.

Prof. Besant has had a significant influence on building science standards and engineering world-wide. His research on heat transfer in building components has led to computer design codes used by the heating and ventilating industry.

His research into energy conservation has had a tremendous impact on housing in Canada. In 1977, his research led to the first cost-effective, energy-efficient house in North America. The federal government's R2000 home energy-efficiency program, launched in 1982, was based on Besant's design and construction concepts. That program has resulted in fundamental changes in the way houses are designed and built in Canada and many other countries.

Prof. Besant led the research team that developed the first heat-recovery ventilator designed specifically for energy-efficient ventilation of houses and other small buildings. This work has led to the establishment of two Saskatchewan companies which together employ nearly 200 people. He is currently working on improving ventilation and energy efficiency in large commercial buildings, as well as improved refrigeration systems and potash quality control.

His contributions to passive solar design and energy efficient design were recognized in 1992 when he was named "Solar Person of the Year" by the Solar Energy Society of Canada. In 1993, he was named a Fellow of ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers). He has also been named "Engineer of the Year" by the Saskatoon Engineering Society (1991) and honored with an Award of Merit by the Canadian Housing Design Council (1982).

His expertise has been sought after as a member of research granting agency committees, technical societies and government agencies including NSERC (Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada), Canada Mortgage and Housing Commission, Canadian Government Standards Board, and the Canadian Standards Association. He was selected as a founding member of the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Energy Conservation and Development Authority which was responsible for recommending energy supply options for the province.

IProf. Besant has published more than 70 refereed journal papers, more than 140 conference papers, and many technical reports. In addition, he has given many seminar presentations and invited talks. His research has attracted substantial financial support and he is the co-author of two patents.

More than 50 graduate students have completed degrees under his supervision. He involves his students in all aspects of research, including publication of results.

Prof. Besant has been an outstanding researcher throughout his almost 40-year career. His research, often leading-edge and pioneering, is internationally and locally respected. He is a worthy recipient of the Distinguished Researcher Award.


Curt Wittlin
   Fall, 1999
Professor Curt Wittlin
Professor of Languages and Linguistics

Professor Curt Wittlin, Professor of Languages and Linguistics, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (1960) from Humanistisches Gymnasium in Basel, Switzerland where the benefits of learning Greek and Latin were stressed. He earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Basel in 1965 in Iberoromance Philology, French linguistics and Italian literature.

Prof. Wittlin is one of Canada’s most prolific scholars in the humanities. As the leading expert outside Spain in medieval Catalan language and literature, he has been enlisted in the struggle to preserve the Catalan language, a minority language spoken by about eight million people in the autonomous regions of Catalonia in Barcelona, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

Following the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 and until General Franco’s death in 1975, Spain’s universities were purged of Catalan scholars. Prof. Wittlin’s research since the mid-60s has helped ensure the survival of Catalan medieval scholarship.

As a Romance philologist, Prof. Wittlin uses linguistics and culture to explain the meaning of medieval texts. He has uncovered common patterns of mistakes made by medieval translators in various Romance languages.

Since Prof. Wittlin came to the University of Saskatchewan in 1967, he has published 12 books in 17 volumes. Nine of these books are editions of medieval Latin, Spanish and Catalan manuscripts. In many cases, they are the first printed edition of these manuscripts. He has also published more than 70 articles in refereed journals and books, as well as 17 articles in conference proceedings. He has been an invited speaker at 34 conferences and has contributed lectures at many other conferences.

Prof. Wittlin’s scholarly work has received recognition both within Canada and outside. In 1988, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the senior national body of distinguished Canadian scientists and scholars. Fellows are selected by their peers for outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences.

Spain’s body of distinguished Catalan scholars has also honored him. The Barcelona-based Institute of Catalan Studies judged his book Repertori d’expressions multinominals to be the best book in medieval Catalan studies written from 1988 to 1989. He became a Fellow of the Institute in 1997.

Another of his books – a critical edition of a medieval "bestseller" – was judged by the Spanish publishing house Serra d’Or to be the best 1996 book on Catalan studies written by a foreigner.

This year, the Institute of Catalan Studies awarded Prof. Wittlin its prestigious International Catalonia Prize for life achievement in studies about Catalan language and culture. The award goes to scholars who are not Catalans.

Prof. Wittlin’s lifetime contribution to the study of Catalan language and literature has done much to make the University of Saskatchewan recognized in the scholarly world. He is a worthy recipient of this award.