Although I had obtained a degree in chemistry from the University of
Toronto and a doctorate at Johns Hopkins, my true interest was in music.
After a stint at teaching chemistry, I decided to concentrate on my love
of music, studying the subject in Boston and New York. I then taught music
both privately and at two Ladies' Colleges in Toronto, along with being
music critic for the Toronto Globe. But I was not able to make an adequate
living from this passion. In 1903 I therefore accepted the position of
Cerealist at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa.
In this post I accomplished my most valuable work in developing new
varieties of grain, most notably Marquis wheat and a few years later was
named Dominion Cerealist. The lack of a fast ripening wheat meant that
areas with a short growing season could not be put into production, and
so these areas were not being settled. The process of cross-breeding varieties
had already begun, but when I took over we applied rigourous scientific
methods to the task and selected individual heads of wheat from breeding
material. This led to the development of a variety called Markham but
it did not produce uniform offspring. By continuing rigorous testing and
selection I chose the best strain, calling it Marquis. The new wheat was
also of a very high quality and made excellent bread. Using the same process,
I was able to develop new strains of other grains too. The development
of Marquis wheat proved to be of tremendous importance to Canada in adding
to the nation's wealth and to its reputation as a producer of the highest
quality spring wheat, and in the settlement of the Prairies. It was also
important in supplying the extra food needed during World War I and in
adding to the world's supply of high quality grain.
Ill health unfortunately forced me to resign as the Dominion Cerealist
in 1922 but it did allow me to study another of my interests, the French
language. I went to study at the Sorbonne in Paris for three years and
on returning to Canada, I lectured both on French and on Marquis wheat.
Although I was knighted in 1934, the moral support that Canadian farmers
provided when I was forced to retire was even more appreciated