Canola technician praised for work

Martin Mallard, whose technical skills played a key role in the early days of developing canola, died recently in Saskatoon. He was 79.

Working at the University of Saskatchewan, Mallard built a gas chromatograph in the early 1960s, before they were commercially available.

Plant scientist Keith Downey used the machine as he worked to develop low erucic acid rapeseed, which eventually led to canola.

Downey said in an interview that work done by Mallard and colleague Burton Craig in developing the machine was critical to the project.

“That instrument really was the key to us being able to break the oil down into its component parts,” Downey said.

“It allowed us for the first time to find out the composition of the oil in a very efficient and timely manner.”

Work that previously took a week and a pound of seed could now be done in 15 or 20 minutes with a drop of oil.

Downey said it wasn’t until six or seven years after Mallard built the gas chromatograph for the U of S project that they became commercially available.

“He was a very talented technician,” he said.

“If you needed something, he could make it.”

Mallard, born Dec. 31, 1929, attended school in Saskatoon and graduated from Saskatoon Technical Collegiate in 1948.

He was hired by the National Research Council, where he spent his entire career.

He worked as a draftsman on the design of the original NRC building and then worked as a research technician for Craig and Downey for more than 20 years.

He also assisted in the design development and construction of the NRC’s Plant Biotechnology Institute, which was built on the U of S campus.

He worked at the institute until his retirement in 1991.

As well, Mallard received international recognition for his 52 years of work in square dancing.

He was married to wife, Terry, for more than 60 years.

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