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Who are they? They are over 2000 Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists, peer-elected as the best in their field. The fellowship of the RSC comprises distinguished men and women from all branches of learning who have made remarkable contributions in the arts, the humanities and the sciences, as well as in Canadian public life.
Today the fellowship comprises four categories: Honorary Fellows, Regularly Elected Fellows, Specially Elected Fellows and Foreign Fellows. The initial fellowship was selected by a committee headed by the Principal of McGill University, Sir John William Dawson, and by the former Premier of Quebec, Pierre J.O. Chauveau, who served respectively as the first two Presidents of the Society. This founding cohort of Fellows included Sir Sandford Fleming, the originator of the world system of Standard Time, and Sir William Osler, one of the greatest physicians of his day. Since 1882, new Fellows have been nominated and elected by their peers who are themselves Fellows of the Society. Over 3 700 scholars and artists have been inducted into to the fellowship over the past hundred and thirty years.
Today, the Society counts over 2 000 Canadian Fellows. While the early fellowship was drawn primarily from Quebec and Ontario, since that time its geographic reach has expanded to include scholars and artists drawn from every region of Canada.
The initial cohort of Fellows was composed exclusively of men. The first woman elected to the Society was Alice Wilson, who joined the fellowship in 1938. Today there are over 300 women members of the Society, including Patricia Demers, who in 2005 became the fi rst woman to hold the position of President. During the past 25 years the percentage of women elected has grown from 5% to 28%.
Approximately 20% of the fellowship indicates French as their first language. Most Fellows hold, or have held, positions in Canadian universities, although many are primarily affi liated with research institutes, government agencies, or private sector laboratories and think tanks. Today the By-laws provide that up to 75 nominees may be elected each year. In addition to Regularly Elected Fellows, the Society also inducts up to seven Specially Elected Fellows per year for contributions to the objectives of the Society other than by scholarship and research.
Annually, the Society also elects up to four Foreign Fellows who, at the time of their election, are neither residents nor citizens of Canada and who, by their exceptionally distinguished intellectual accomplishments in the arts, humanities and sciences, have helped promote the object of the Society in ways that have clear relevance for Canadian society. Finally, the By-laws envisage the election by the Council of the Society of up to two Honorary Fellows upon recommendation of the President during each presidential term.