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Brian Keith Hall: Honored by UofC for transforming the study of biology

Posted by Faculty of Science on June 13, 2014 in Kudos

The University of Calgary recognized Brian Hall, professor emeritus at Dal, with an honorary degree on Thursday for his contributions to the study of biology. Described as one of Canada’s most distinguished living scientists, he is recognized for his contributions to the study of evolutionary biology, zoology, and developmental biology.

Professor Hall has researched and written extensively on bone and cartilage formation in developing vertebrate embryos. Paired with the likes of Steven Jay Gould and Rudolf Raff, he’s one of the founders of evolutionary developmental biology, known as Evo-Devo, which merges the two concepts changing how scientists approach the study of biology. Through his lab at Dal, studying the neural crest and its derived craniofacial skeleton in the early vertebrate embryo his research has led to a greater understanding how cellular differentiation works.

Hall joined the faculty of Dalhousie University as an Assistant Professor in 1968 and became Full Professor of Biology in 1975 then serving as Chairman of Biology from 1978 to 1985. Since 1993 he has been a Fellow of the Centre for Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Between 1996 and 2001, he was Faculty of Science Killam Professor of Biology at Dalhousie, and in 2001 he was appointed George S. Campbell Professor of Biology.

Hall retired in July 2007 and became a Professor Emeritus. Since his retirement he has spent much of his time writing undergraduate textbooks. Over the years Hall received many awards and honours. Hall received the first D.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the University of New England in 1978. In 1985 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) and won the Fry Medal from the Canadian Society of Zoologist in 1994. Soon after awarded the International Craniofacial Biology Distinguished Scientist Award in 1996 and in 2001 the Alexander Kowalevsky Medal, awarded for the first time in a century, and honorary membership in Saint Petersburg Society of Naturalists joining the company of famous scientists Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur.

The beginning of the 21st century marked many achievements for Hall. In 2002 he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, won an NSERC Award of Excellence in Research, won a Canada Council for the Arts Killam Research Fellowship for 2003-2005, was named an honorary member of The Golden Key International Honour Society in 2003, and won the $100,000 Killam Prize in Neural Sciences from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2005. The Canadian Society of Zoologists established the “Hall Award” in 2006 for the best student platform paper presented in the Comparative Morphology and Development Division at the Society annual meeting.

This honorary degree from the University of Calgary is a testament to Hall’s remarkable career, his mentorship to students and young scientists and his contributions to the field of biology.