Margaret Somerville

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Margaret Anne Ganley Somerville
Born (1942-04-13) April 13, 1942 (age 74)
Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation Ethicist

Margaret Anne Ganley Somerville, AM, FRSC (born April 13, 1942) is the Samuel Gale Professor of Law at McGill University, as well as professor in the university's faculty of medicine and the founding director of the law faculty's Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law.

Somerville was born in Adelaide, South Australia, and educated at Mercedes College (Springfield, South Australia). She received a A.u.A. (pharm.) from the University of Adelaide in 1963, a Bachelor of Law degree (Hons. I) and the University Medal from the University of Sydney in 1973, and a D.C.L. from McGill University in 1978.

In 1978 she was appointed assistant professor in the law faculty at McGill. She was appointed an associate professor in 1979 and an associate professor in the faculty of medicine in 1980. In 1984 she became a full professor in both faculties, and in 1989 was appointed the Samuel Gale Professor of Law. From 1986 to 1996, she was the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law and was appointed acting director in 1999. She currently teaches seminars on advanced torts and comparative medical law at McGill.

In November 2006 she gave the five annual Massey Lectures on CBC Radio in Canada. An expanded version of the lectures was published in Canada, Australia and the United States in book form as The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.


Among many honours and awards, in 1990, Somerville was made a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to the law and to bioethics".[1] In 1991 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2004 she was chosen by an international jury as the first recipient of UNESCO's Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science.[2]

She has received honorary degrees from University of Windsor (1992), Macquarie University (1993), St. Francis Xavier University (1996) and the University of Waterloo (2004). Her honorary degree awarded June 19, 2006 at Ryerson University in Toronto was controversial[3] because of her objections to same sex marriage. She has since received honorary degrees from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (2009), St. Mark's College, Vancouver (2010) and the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario (2013).

In 2006 Somerville was nominated for membership in the Order of Canada by Carol Finlay, a professor at the Toronto School of Theology. Finlay says Somerville was turned down for the honour because she was "too controversial."[4]

Involvement in same-sex marriage debate[edit]

Somerville presented both a brief and an oral presentation to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada in 2003.[5] [6]

Selected bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Aubin, Henry. (2006). McGill ethicist refused OC because she was 'too controversial', The Montreal Gazette, 8 July 2008.
  5. ^ Margaret Somerville The Case Against "Same-sex marriage" Catholic Education Resource Center. Retrieved November 25, 2013
  6. ^ 37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Parliament of Canada. Retrieved November 25, 2013