General Andrew McNaughton (1946–1948)

General McNaughton
General McNaughton was one of the war's leading gunners. This photograph, from 1919, shows McNaughton as a brigadier-general holding his officer's swagger stick. The red tabs on the collar reveal that he is part of the general staff.

Portrait of a General

A jack of all trades and significant presence in Canadian history, General Andrew George Latta McNaughton was the first President of the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's (CNSC's) predecessor. Renowned for his keen intellect and innate leadership capabilities, he initiated a tradition of providing Canadians with a safe nuclear industry. McNaughton held the AECB presidency from 1946 until 1948; however, his involvement with the AECB was just one of many significant positions he held over the course of a demanding and diverse career.

General McNaughton was born in Moosomin, Saskatchewan (formerly of the Northwest Territories) in 1887. Demonstrating an interest in science at an early age, he attended McGill University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in physics and engineering.

In 1909, McNaughton enlisted in the Militia and in 1914 he joined the 4th Battery of the Canadian Expeditionary Corps. His scientific background and leadership skills led to a series of rapid promotions. In under 20 years, McNaughton received six promotions, rising from the rank of Lieutenant to Major-General. By 1944, Andrew McNaughton was a Canadian General.

Winston Churchill and McNaughton
Winston Churchill and Lieutenant General McNaughton study a military map at Canadian Headquarters, March 1941

What separated McNaughton from his peers was his ability to apply the knowledge he gained in his formal education to his work in the field. McNaughton aided in the development of several new techniques in weaponry and detection; he was responsible for the development of the discarding sabot projectile, flash spotting sound ranging and a precursor to radar called flash spotting sound ranging.

General McNaughton's successful military career was compromised during the Second World War, when he approved the disastrous operation in Dieppe, France. The influence of critics and the General's ongoing health concerns led to McNaughton's resignation from his position in 1943.

In the years following his military service, General McNaughton continued to work in service of the Canadian public. McNaughton was appointed Minister of Defense in 1944 by Mackenzie King and later became Canada's representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. In 1946, McNaughton was appointed the first President of the AECB, where he served until 1948.

Time Magazine, General McNaughton
Time Magazine, General McNaughton on the cover, August 10, 1942

General McNaughton spent the remainder of his working years as a CNSC Commission Member and, later, as the Canadian Chairman to the International Joint Commission. He was a key player in harnessing the St. Lawrence River for energy and navigational purposes, and a leader in developing the Columbia River and Passamaquody Bay.

For 50 years, General Andrew McNaughton was intricately involved in forging Canada's future. As a soldier, an inventor, a scientist, an engineer, a politician, a diplomat and an executive, McNaughton created a name for himself in Canadian history and in the history of the CNSC.

Visit the CNSC 65th anniversary timeline to read more about General McNaughton's contributions to the CNSC.

McNaughton March 1942
Lieutenant-General McNaughton, March 1942

For further information about the life of General Andrew G. L McNaughton, please visit the following links:

Did you know?

General A.G.L. McNaughton held positions as a scientist, engineer, politician, inventor, diplomat, soldier and executive.

McNaughton attended classes and taught at McGill University's engineering faculty and was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society.

McNaughton invented a forerunner to radar called “sound ranging" and sold the rights to the Government of Canada for $10.

William Lyon Mackenzie King with General McNaughton
William Lyon Mackenzie King with General McNaughton at Aldershot, England in August 1941

McNaughton was blamed for the Dieppe raid in 1942.

From 1935 to 1944, McNaughton was President of the National Research Council of Canada.

McNaughton was Mackenzie King's first choice for the Canadian Governor General position in the early 1940s.

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