1927 - 2020
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ROOTS, BETTY IDA PhD, DSc, FRSC An accomplished scientist, photographer and intrepid traveller, Dr. Betty Roots finished her remarkable life at Toronto General Hospital on Saturday, October 24, 2020, at the age of 93 plus three days. She lived and died fearlessly, surviving V2 rockets, desert adventures and titanium knees, to name a few. First born of parents Maude and Cecil Roots in South Croydon, Surrey in England on October 21, 1927, Betty (it's NOT Elizabeth) practiced the exacting method of the scales of Libra, with attention to detail in her well received scientific, photographic and editing work. Her unpublished memoirs paint a personal and professional history ripe with humour, curiosity and, inevitably for a female scientist of her time, gender bias that diminished the options open to women at the end of WWII, and decades later. It is true that she learned dissection at an early age and stored an assortment of interesting specimens either in her family's back garden or in the bedroom that she shared with her sister, Celia. In Wartime, she was evacuated to another part of England and ultimately to Wales and learned to hide under her desk during examinations as the air raid sirens blared until the All Clear. In 1949, she earned her BSc (Special Honours) in Zoology at University College, University of London, England, a Diploma in Education in 1950 from the Institute of London, England, and a PhD in Zoology (Comparative Physiology) in 1953, University College, University of London, England. Betty's academic appointments were diverse, from Assistant Lecturer at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, University of London, Visiting Scientist in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Research Neuroscientist, Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego (La Jolla) to her appointments at the University of Toronto that began in 1969, where she rose from Assistant Professor (1969-1972), to Full Professor and Assistant Chair of Zoology (1972-75), Associate Dean (Sciences) Erindale College (now UTM), to becoming the first female Chair of Zoology at the University of Toronto (1984-1990). In 1993, she was appointed Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto. In 1981, at Albert Hall, followed by a reception in Westminster Abbey, Betty was awarded the prestigious DSc degree from the University of London, England, for her achievements in research in the fields of comparative physiology and neurobiology. She was the recipient of many honours, including the Margaret Browne Research Fellowship, Rose Sidgwick Memorial Fellowship, a Fulbright Award, Welcome Trust Research Award, Woman of the Year (1990), Canadian Association for Women in Science. One of her most cherished honours was becoming an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC, 1989, Life Member, 2014), which she supported enthusiastically until her death. In 2002, she was awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal and in 2013, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. She is the recipient of several awards for her photography, including a Silver Medal from the ­Photographic Society of America. Betty was an active member of several prestigious professional organizations that reflected her research interests in neurochemistry and electron microscopy. She made life-long friends from many countries who shared her passion for scientific enquiry, discipline and curiosity. The Royal Canadian Institute (President) and the Toronto Camera Club (two times the President) gave her other platforms for education. She was a life member of the Royal Ontario Museum and supporter of the World Wildlife Fund. At the time of her death, Betty was an active Founding Director of her much beloved Roberta Bondar Foundation. Roberta, her loyal friend for over 50 years and first PhD student, was a source of inspiration, energy and pride, ever-present to rescue Betty from jungles, deserts, deep waters and diverse health challenges. Betty is survived by her loving sister Celia (Ian) Broom, brother David (Gillian); nieces Rosamund (David) Shulver, Richmond Hill, ON, Abigail (Jonathan) Barham, Sydney Australia; nephews Jonathan (Elizabeth) Ampthill, Bedfordshire, UK, Christopher (Catherine) Torquay, Devon, UK and eight great nieces and nephews. She will be dearly missed by her formidable and supportive extended family Barbara Bondar, Bonnie Patterson and doggie Zoey; predeceased by Christine Yankou and doggie Betsy (Toronto), Mildred and Edward Bondar (Sault Ste. Marie). Remembered by dear friends in Ontario: Avril, Eleanor, Ellie (co-author), Frances and Peter, Madeline, Maryke, Robyn, Sherry; and many professional colleagues and friends around the world. Cremation has taken place. Tributes can be left at To commemorate Betty's life, her wishes were that donations in lieu of flowers, be made to advance the environmental programs of the Roberta Bondar Foundation.

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Published in Toronto Star on Oct. 31, 2020.
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Memories & Condolences
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4 entries
November 9, 2020
Prof. E Roots

We are all very sad to hear of the passing of our 'Aunty Betty'. She has been a close lifelong friend of our family. She went to school with our mother Patricia Pearce and through her remarkable scientific career had much in common with our father Prof. Robert Pearce. The achievements in her life were incredible not only through her work, but also in her world wide travels which produced such amazing photography and experiences. Above all she was a truly wonderful, kind person who was adored by everyone who knew her. She will be greatly missed.

Jenny, Nigel and Maureen.
October 31, 2020
I had the pleasure to travel to Tanzania with Betty in 2013 with the Toronto Camera Club, to follow and capture the great wildebeest migration. She was a warm and friendly traveller and then friend. She was a talented photographer and we will cherish our fond memories of our adventure with Betty in Africa.
Mary Ann Griffin
October 30, 2020
I had the great privilege of traveling with Betty to Haida Gwaii a few years ago. It was such a pleasure to get to know her and hear about her fascinating life. I feel blessed to have had her in my life! My sympathies to her friends and family.
Joanna Whitney
October 30, 2020
I had the great privilege of traveling with Betty to Haidai Gwaii a few years ago. It was such a pleasure to get to know her and hear about her fascinating life. I feel blessed to have had her in my life! My sympathies to her friends and family.
Joanna Whitney
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