Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




MacEachern, Alan


Karl Clark’s research on the oil sands had a huge impact on the province of Alberta. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Clark was one of few researchers who remained involved throughout the entire developmental period of the oil sands industry. Clark’s persistence and systematic experimentation led to the development of an effective hot water separation process which resulted in viable commercial development of the oil sands. Without his extensive experience and sustained involvement and passion for the project, the oil sands would not have been developed when they were. The sparse earlier historiography of the developmental period has tended to underestimate his contribution. His personal papers and correspondence has provided evidence of his meticulous and systematic contributions. His work has also demonstrated the critical role that science plays in the development of an industry, a role that political will and entrepreneurial drive could not alone fill.