October 5, 2007
U of S Archives, A-4756. Concrete test blocks. – 1928.
In the 1920s, the head of the Department of Chemistry, Thorbergur Thorvaldson, earned an international reputation for his work on Portland Cement.
All across Western Canada, public and private structures were crumbling. After conducting a series of tests, it was found that sulphates in the alkaline soil were causing the cement to swell and break down. Collaborating with a series of graduate students, Thorvaldson was able to develop a formula for cement that was resistant to sulfates. The result was a world-wide change in the manufacture of commercial cement that significantly increased the durability of concrete structures.
Because there was no patent issued with regard to the process, neither Thorvaldson nor the University of Saskatchewan benefited financially. In the fall of 1966, the Chemistry Building, including a planned addition, was renamed the Thorvaldson Building. A concrete block in front of the Thorvaldson Building symbolizes his contribution to the durability of this common construction material.
The above image is of cement blocks that had been buried for several years. The note on the back of the photo read, “original blocks put in a site 1st Ave – 22-23rd taken out in 1928 when Massey Harris Building put up”.Patrick Hayes, U of S Archives