On November 27, 1873 a fourth son, Thomas Glendenning Hamilton, was born to James and Isabella (Glendenning) Hamilton of Agincourt, Ontario. Agincourt, then a section of the Borough of Scarborough, is now part of Metropolitan Toronto.
In 1883, this Scottish-Canadian family moved west and homesteaded in Saskatchewan. They lived in a sod hut on the bank of the Saskatchewan River on a site which is now part of the city of Saskatoon. The Hamiltons were one of the first pioneer families to settle in Saskatoon and did much to further the community and cultural life of the tiny settlement.
In 1884, Saskatoon's first school was opened and a literary society was organized with James Hamilton serving as the society's first president. The years 1884 to 1885 also witnessed the second northwest rebellion. During the uprising the Hamiltons sheltered the wounded and otherwise assisted the Canadian troops who had been sent to stop the insurrection.
Shortly after the fighting ceased, James Hamilton died. The family was soon further saddened by the death of the only daughter, Margaret. Mrs. Hamilton and her five sons continued to farm the homestead until 1891 when the family moved to Winnipeg in order that the boys might secure a better education. The eldest son, Robert, was already working as an electrician in Winnipeg and John, the second son, had left to teach school in British Columbia when Mrs. Hamilton and her youngest son "Willie" left by train for their new home. The other two boys, James and Thomas, covered the eight hundred miles to Winnipeg by pony and buckboard and, for the last several miles, on foot.
Both James and Thomas attended Manitoba College. Upon graduating, they taught school for a period in order to raise the funds to enter medical school. Thomas graduated from medical school in 1903 and completed his internship at the Winnipeg General Hospital in 1904. He established residence and commenced practice in the district of Elmwood, where he continued to live and work throughout his career.
On November 26, 1906 he married Lillian May Forrester of Emerson, Manitoba. Miss Forrester had graduated in 1905 from the Training School for Nurses - Winnipeg General Hospital and had received the top award for "Highest General Proficiency". The Hamiltons were to have four children--Margaret, Glen, James and Arthur.
From the many accounts written by his friends and associates, as well as from his own letters, publications and lecture notes, Dr. Hamilton emerges as a calm, thorough, painstaking individual. For the next twenty-nine years he was to dedicate these admirable qualities to the service of his fellow man through his church and his profession, on civic committees, as a member of the provincial legislature and as a punctilious investigator of the metapsychic. A faithful Presbyterian, he was a loyal member of King Memorial Church Session and Congregation. In 1907 he was elected and ordained an Elder, became a trustee of the church property and later served as the chairman of its building committee.
He was elected School Trustee for Winnipeg's Ward Seven in 1906 and was re-elected by acclamation the following year. Altogether, he served on the Public School Board for nine years, one year as chairman. Some notable achievements of the Winnipeg Public School Board during his years of service were the introduction of fire drills in the public schools, free medical examinations for the students, and supervised playground activities during the summer months.
In July 1914, "TGH" (as he was frequently called) became actively involved in provincial politics. He ran as a Liberal candidate to the 14th Manitoba Legislative Assembly and was narrowly defeated by the Conservative nominee, H.D. McWhirter. Owing to maladministration and scandals involved in the construction of the Parliament Buildings, the 14th Legislature was short-lived. On the resignation of the Roblin Government on May 12, 1915, Lieutenant Governor Sir Douglas Colin Cameron called upon the Honourable Tobias Crawford Norris, Leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba, to form a cabinet. The difficulties of governing with a minority government soon prompted Premier Norris to appeal to the electorate, a move which returned the Norris Government with a large majority of the vote. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton had again presented himself as a candidate and, this time, was elected as Liberal representative for Elmwood with an overwhelming majority.
The 15th Legislative Assembly was one of impressive achievements. It was this government which brought about the enfranchisement of women (January 28, 1916) and amended the Municipal Boundaries Act. Because of the strict liquor laws, there had been a strong reaction towards drugs. A new Pharmaceutical Act sought to curtail the sale of cocaine and morphine and to confine it to doctors' prescriptions. Women became eligible for civic offices (March 8, 1917), the Mothers' Allowance Act was passed (March 10, 1917), the Election Act was amended and Proportional Representation introduced. The Public Health, Charity Aid, Workmen's Compensation, Public School and Prison Reform Acts were passed. Legislation with respect to conservation of natural resources was also effected and Widows' Pensions introduced. It was this Legislative Assembly which saw the completion of Manitoba's beautiful Parliament Building.
On scanning the Manitoba section of the Canadian Parliamentary Guide 1916 "Sketches of Members", it becomes plain that few, if any, members of the 15th Legislative Assembly entered the Legislature with such a proven record of community action as Dr. Hamilton. His impressive services in that Assembly included participation on several Select Standing Committees including Privileges and Elections, Law Amendments, Private Bills, Public Accounts, Printing and the Library. He chaired a number of these committees.
Dr. Hamilton was responsible for piloting the amendment to the Manitoba Medical College Act (which made the Medical College a part of the University of Manitoba) through the Assembly. He gave full support to the amendment to the Municipal Boundaries Act despite the fact that his own riding of Elmwood would be eliminated. That the Mothers' Allowance, Public School and Pharmaceutical Acts were given positive support in the Legislature was due, in part, to his persuasive and informed endorsement. It was also during a session of this Legislature that Dr. Hamilton expressed the opinion that, in the interests of public safety, annual re-licensing of all those connected with the health sciences should be mandatory.
The 15th Legislature was dissolved on March 27, 1920. As the riding of Elmwood had been eliminated and a portion of it was now part of Winnipeg, Dr. Hamilton, along with forty other candidates, sought one of the ten seats of the House now reserved for the city of Winnipeg. Although Dr. Hamilton made a strong showing, a heavy labour vote and his split riding proved too formidable. He was not re-elected.
These concerns, however, were secondary to his main calling--that of physician and surgeon. Although this collection does not emphasize his medical career, other records show that it was one of solid achievement. From 1911 to 1934, he was a member of the Winnipeg General Hospital Medical Staff. In 1919 the Board of Trustees of the Winnipeg General Hospital appointed him Assistant Surgeon (Outdoor) on the Honourary Attending Medical Staff of the hospital. All those who accepted such appointments incurred, as a condition of appointment, the responsibility to teach in connection with the medical school. Dr. Hamilton taught medical jurisprudence and acted also as examiner in Clinical Surgery.
The busy practitioners who formed the (Outdoor) Attending Medical Staff agreed to accept the further obligation of attending a Clinical Lunch on the first and third Thursdays of each month. One half hour was given over for lunch and a full hour devoted to clinical cases and discussion. The agenda of those luncheons show that Dr. Hamilton regularly addressed the group on surgical cases involving various forms of cancer, orthopaedic and skin graft problems. These talks, as well as published articles, indicate an uncommon measure of success in maintaining the mobility of injured points. The records of annual meetings of the Winnipeg General Hospital Board indicate his deep concern for a high level of service. His constant plea was for more effective co-operation between all levels of hospital personnel. These same records show him working shoulder to shoulder with men whose medical achievements were to gain them international recognition. It was a time that might well be called "the golden age" of the Winnipeg General Hospital when its Honourary Attending Staff included, not only Dr. Hamilton, but Dr. William Boyd (Pathology), Drs. Bruce and Gordon Chown (Rh Factor and Paediatrics), Drs. L.S. Goodman and A. Gilman (Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics) and Dr. Maxwell Wintrobe (Clinical Haematology).
Dr. Hamilton was an indefatigable worker. In 1921 he was elected President of the newly formed University of Manitoba Alumni Association and President of the Manitoba Medical Association. As well, he published the first edition of the Manitoba Medical Association Bulletin. In 1923 he was appointed one of Manitoba's two representatives to the Executive of the Canadian Medical Association--a position he held until 1931.
Considerable as these achievements were, it was his investigation of psychic phenomena that accounted for his international reputation. In 1918, his interest in the psychic had been aroused by his close friend Professor W.T. Allison (Professor of English at Wesley College), who had personally investigated the Patience Worth phenomena. Applying his usual scientific method of investigation, Dr. Hamilton familiarized himself with both the early and current literature of the subject. His later lectures and articles showed him to be thoroughly conversant with the work of Schrenk-Notzing, Geley, Osty, Myers, Podmore and Rhine. For a time his interest lay dormant. But, late in 1920, he began his own experiments which were to continue until April 1935. His aim was the investigation of paranormal phenomena (rappings, psychokinesis, ectoplasms and materializations) under scientific conditions that would rule out any possibility of fraud and minimize any possibility of error. Dr. Hamilton was particularly suited, both by training and by temperament, to conduct such investigations. While psychic phenomena have been known under one name or another in every recorded society, the questionable claims (some of which read like adventures in the absurd) of those who conducted their investigations under loose (if not fraudulent) experimental conditions, produced a scepticism on the part of many. There are few subjects which have aroused more bitter controversy. Dr. Hamilton, however, was interested in certain basic issues: 1) Do we have paranormal abilities, potentials for awareness and communication and action that we do not fully realize? 2) Can they be observed, measured and evaluated? 3) Are these abilities psychological or physical or both? 4) Do these capabilities continue to function after the experience of physical death? In other words, "Is there survival after death?"
Apparently, Dr. Hamilton was not primarily motivated by sentimental or religious beliefs. What he sought to obtain were verifiable facts culled from repeated experiments over a long period of time and conducted under rigorously controlled conditions. Full, accurate records of his experiments--many of them verbatim--were kept. An elaborate battery of cameras provided photographic records. He was well aware that many scientists refused to assign this subject a place for serious investigation. But, as one of his friends indicated, "He followed his own convictions, careless of criticism." In this, as in his other endeavours, he was interested in anything that might be beneficially applied to the human condition. Considering the present-day experimentation in extra-sensory perception, particularly in medical institutions, he may have been ahead of his time.
Nevertheless, there is no indication that his sincerity or integrity was ever in doubt. For himself, like Bagehot, he seems to have realized that "one of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea." Knowing this, he was able to accept such criticism as did come his way with a certain equanimity. In time, Dr. Hamilton's work became known in the United Kingdom, in Europe and in the United States. He was asked to speak before a wide variety of groups. From 1926 to 1935, he gave eighty-six lectures and wrote numerous articles that were published in Canada and abroad.
In his correspondence and in his other writings, Dr. Hamilton created his own portrait more accurately than either his family or friends could possibly have done. His writing transmits a warmth of personality and friendship. It is the records of an uncommon man who counted among his friends, in both Europe and America, many famous personalities of the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1933 he resigned from his staff and teaching positions due to ill health, although he continued to write on topics of interest to him. His last article, "Reality of Psychic Force", appeared in Light, Vol. 55, No. 2828 on Thursday, January 10, 1935. He died of a heart attack on April 7, 1935 at the age of sixty-one. The many tributes received by his family attest to the high regard in which he was held both by his medical colleagues and by his other numerous acquaintances. His wife Lillian carried on his paranormal experimentations following his death.
CHRONOLOGY OF IMPORTANT DATES
1873 -- Born November 27th to James and Isabella (Glendenning) Hamilton at Agincourt, Ontario
1903 -- Graduated from Manitoba Medical College
1904 -- Completed internship at Winnipeg General Hospital and commenced practice in Elmwood
1906 -- Married Lillian May Forrester, November 26th
1907 -- Elected to the Winnipeg Public School Board
1915 -- Served in the Manitoba Legislature
1920-1916 -- First Chairman of the Winnipeg Committee on Mothers' Pensions
1920 -- Fellow, American College of Surgeons
1921 -- President, University of Manitoba Alumni Association
1921-1922 -- President, Manitoba Medical Association; President, University of Manitoba Alumni Association; Member, American College of Surgeons
1923-1934 -- Manitoba representative on the executive of the Canadian Medical Association
1918-1934 -- Period of psychic research
1926-1934 -- Eighty-six public addresses given to diverse audiences in Canada, England and the United States
1930 -- August 27th, addressed the British Medical Association Convention in Winnipeg; topic: "Psychic Research"
1935 -- Last article, "Reality of Psychic Force", appeared in Light, vol. 55, no. 2818 (Thursday, January 10) Contracted influenza and suffered a heart attack Died April 7, 1935