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Dr. Kenneth Standing

April 3, 1925 - March 21, 2019


The family of Dr. Kenneth Graham Standing is sad to announce that he died Thursday, March 21, at the age of 93.


Ken is survived by his children Mike and wife Brenda Janz, Tim, Liz and husband Clarence Jackson, Jon and wife Andrea Jackson; as well as grandchildren Willem, Tannin, Rachel, Luke and Corin, and a large extended family. Parents Graham and Elsie Standing, his brothers Harold and John, and his sister Kathleen Taylor predeceased him.


Ken was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Winnipeg’s West End and attended Daniel McIntyre Collegiate. It was there that a science teacher inspired him to pursue a career in Physics. He entered the University of Manitoba on an Isbister Scholarship, but after one year of university felt the call to serve his country in World War II. He joined the navy and was posted to run the freshwater pumping station at an inland lake, for the navy base at Shelburne, Nova Scotia. After the war, he was fortunate to be able to return to U of M and complete his undergrad degree. He then went to Princeton University and completed his A. M. and PhD in Nuclear Physics under Dr. Rubby Sherr. Ken joined the faculty at U of M 1953; here he designed, built and commissioned the Cyclotron Particle Accelerator, serving as Director from 1959-1974.  


In the late 1970s, he completely changed the focus of his research to Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry and its applications to study biological macromolecules, particularly proteins and peptides. Ken is widely regarded as a pioneer in this area, which is an essential component of the new field of proteomics. His collaborations with biologists focused on the solution of a wide range of biological problems. A notable example was the collaboration with the National Microbiology Lab during the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003. Ken’s group made significant contributions to characterizing the virus by providing sequence information for much of the protein structure before the genome was sequenced.


He received many awards and accolades during his distinguished career, including the Canadian Society for Mass Spectrometry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Mass Spectrometry, the Canadian Association of Physicists Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Industrial and Applied Physics, the American Chemical Society Field and Franklin Award for outstanding achievement in mass spectrometry, and the Encana Principal Award from the Ernest C. Manning Foundation, known as ‘Canada’s Nobel Prize’. Ken was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Royal Society of Canada. He served as Member or Chair of various US National Institutes of Health Special Study Sections. He and his research team were awarded NSERC’s Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. The sponsors of the annual Enabling Technologies Symposium have also established the Ken Standing Award, in his honour. In 2009, Ken was awarded the highest honour the university can confer upon an individual, the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by the University of Manitoba.


Ken donated the personal prize money from the Manning award to further fund his research. Despite his accomplishments, he remained a modest man, sharing the limelight and recognizing his colleagues for their contributions, including as inventors on patents. Ken also mentored and welcomed many young Canadian scientists to his lab, as well as those from all over the world, including Russia, China, the US, Brazil and Sri Lanka. He was very proud of all of them and their accomplishments.


Ken loved travel, and through his work he had the opportunity to spend a year in Bristol England, as a Nuffield Fellow, and two separate years in France on sabbatical. His work also took him throughout Europe, the United States, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Uzbekistan and Russia.


Ken retired as a professor in 1995 but continued his research as Emeritus Professor well into his 80s, and continued his routine of walking to the university and going to his office/lab every day until his early 90s. He loved downhill skiing, enjoying many family ski trips, skiing well into his 70s.


Our Dad was a proud eccentric, and a loving, kind and patient Father and Grandfather. He especially loved spending time with his family at the cottage he designed and helped build on his beloved Lake of the Woods. Grandpa adored his Grandchildren and loved to spend time with them, playing cards, doing puzzles, eating good food, reading to them and attending their school and sporting events.


Our Dad had a curious mind, a wide range of interests, and was always interested in people and politics. He had an impish sense of humour until the end. He will be dearly missed.


The family would like to thank the staff at Tuxedo Villa for their care and support for our Dad.


A celebration of Ken’s life will be held at 7:00 p.m. on May 6 at the Pavilion Atrium in Assiniboine Park, 55 Pavilion Crescent.

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