Edward A. “Peter” Robinson

Principal and Dean; Professor
Place of Birth: 
London, England
First Year Employed at Erindale College: 
First Year Employed at UTM/U of T: 
Department / Division: 

Early Erindale was a large, joyous family.

Edward A. “Peter” Robinson

E.A. “Peter” Robinson arrived in Canada in 1958 as a post-doctoral chemistry fellow and stayed to blaze a trail at Erindale College (now U of T Mississauga). He joined the University of Toronto faculty in 1961 as an assistant professor of chemistry and moved west five years later to help create Erindale. Robinson served variously as first associate dean, acting dean, dean and principal as the new campus took shape. He worked closely with the first working principal, J. Tuzo Wilson, who then passed the torch to him.

As an administrator from 1966 to 1976, Robinson was involved in “discussing, defining, planning and securing the evolving nature of Erindale College.” His mission, as he saw it, was three-fold: “to give to the rural community west of Toronto the best that U of T had to offer, or better; to establish Erindale College's reputation as a happy, vibrant and confident community; and to ensure that its campus would continue to grow in beauty and tranquility for the benefit of both scholars and visitors.” Robinson also chaired the Council of Deans of Arts and Science for Ontario universities and, in 1992, chaired the college’s 25th anniversary celebrations committee.

Despite his administrative duties, Robinson was also devoted to teaching and research. He thoroughly enjoyed offering the introductory chemistry course to incoming students and was one of the authors of a pair of modern chemistry textbooks and related study guides.

In the laboratory, Robinson’s initial foray into research was directed toward a greater understanding of the complex chemistry of sulfuric acid. He and his research partners were involved in the invention of superacids, pioneered the use of the Toronto Mercury Arc-Lamp, were among the first to use laser spectrometry, and discovered the elusive proof of C-H---O hydrogen bonding in methanesulfonyl fluoride and other substances. Since his retirement, his research has continued apace.

“Research scientists are problem solvers, and getting Erindale/UTM going to the best of our abilities was my great life experience that I had the good fortune to share not only with Tuzo Wilson, but with many others,” Robinson says.


Selected Awards:

  • DSc, 1969, University of London, for distinguished advanced research work in chemistry

  • Inaugural E.A. Robinson Medal, UTM, 1976, named in his honour upon the occasion of his withdrawal from university administration; the medals are awarded annually to the top graduating students in four disciplines: humanities, sciences, social sciences and commerce/business administration. They go hand-in-hand with the Founder’s Gold Medal, which was Robinson’s gift to Erindale upon stepping down.

  • The College Award, 1988, for outstanding contributions to the quality of life at the Erindale campus.

  • Arbor Award, 2006, for outstanding service to the University of Toronto


Selected Publications:

  • E. A. Robinson, S. A. Johnson, T.-H. Tang and R. J. Gillespie, "A Reinterpretation of the Lengths of Bonds to Fluorine in Terms of an Almost Ionic Model", Inorganic Chemistry, 1997, 36, 3022

  • R. J. Gillespie, G. L. Heard and E. A. Robinson, “The importance of ligand-ligand interactions in determining molecular geometry: The ligand-close packing model.  Journal of Molecular Structure 485, 305, (1999)

  • R. J. Gillespie, E. A. Robinson and J. Pilmé, “Ligand Close Packing, Molecular Compactness, the Methyl Tilt, Molecular Conformations, and a New Model for the Anomeric Effect”, Chemistry, 2010, 22, 3663