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LANGFORD – Martha Whitney

December 28, 1938 – July, 19, 2009

 On July, 19, 2009, Martha Whitney Langford succumbed to cancer at the age of 70. Martha lived a rich and full life, aptly describing her career path as “non-linear”.  For the past sixteen years, she taught courses in technology and society and the development of Canadian science and technology policy at the University of Calgary. She was one of a small group of scholars teaching and writing about the historical development of industrial technology in Canada. Her work in recent years, has focused on the history of university-industry-government interactions in Canadian science and technology and Canada’s involvement in big science.  Martha grew up in Amherst Massachusetts, daughter of the late Professor Robert B. Whitney of Amherst College and Josephine Winter Whitney.  Upon completing her schooling in Amherst, she earned a BA in English and Philosophy from Pomona College in California. She then spent a year teaching English in Normandy, then received an MAT from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After which she taught in Needham, MA until 1967 when she married Cooper H Langford, III in Amherst. The couple moved to Carleton University in Ottawa. There Martha earned an MA in Canadian Studies writing about development of the electrochemical industry in Ontario and Quebec. In Ottawa she also worked with the Carleton Faculty Association and was an officer of the Ottawa South Community Association.  While in Ottawa, she began her   doctoral studies at the University of Montreal Institute for History and Sociopolitics of Science, receiving the degree in 1988 after the Langford’s had moved to Concordia University in Montreal. In Montreal, she wrote about the history of Shawinigan Chemicals and the industrial heritage of Montreal. At Concordia, she taught in the Economics department on the economic development of Canada. In 1992 the Langford’s moved to the University of Calgary. Martha’s outstanding characteristic as a university teacher was her concern for the students as individuals. Her dedication was reflected by the fact that she knew all students in large classes by name after no more than two weeks. She tailored instruction to the needs of each, likely borrowing the student-focused educational style from her early experience teaching grades seven and nine. Her teaching anticipated the recent movement in the university toward participatory learning. A number of students majoring in the Science, Technology, and Society program at the university recognized Martha’s course as having generated their interest in this area. Faculty and students alike will miss her kind smile and good nature.  Her personal interest in classic English literature, and Canadian writers persisted throughout her life.  She was an enthusiast for the music of Mozart, especially the operas, as well as the music of Bach, particularly the organ. Martha is survived by her husband Cooper, her daughter Holly Langford of London Ontario, sons Cooper IV of Toronto and Robert of Montreal, grandson Sam Clark of London, sister Marian Archibald of Philadelphia, brothers Dr. Robert Whitney of Tacoma and John Whitney of Lake Tahoe, and her step-mother Constance Whitney of Monterey.
A Celebration of Martha’s Life will be held on Sunday August 16, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. in the Rozsa Centre at the University of Calgary. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be forwarded to the University of Calgary’s development office to the Martha Whitney Langford scholarship, 2500 University Drive N.W. T2N 1N2.

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  1. Ronald Blomberg :


    I knew her as Miss Whitney and had her for home room and as a teacher in Needham in 1962-63. She was the very best teacher and my very favourite teacher that I ever had in Needham. That is why I searched for her on the internet. I am very sorry that she has passed. I would have loved to have communicated with her again.

    God bless her and her family.

    Ron Blomberg

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