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James (Jim) Hermiston Aitchison was born on January 22, 1908 to James C. and Elizabeth Aitchison in Innerleithen, Scotland. He came to Canada at age four and was raised and educated in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Aitchison received a B.A. (1928) and B.Ed. (1929) from the University of Saskatchewan as well as a B.Sc. from the London School of Economics (1935). While in London, Aitchison married Oriole, with whom he had one daughter, Elizabeth. In 1953, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.
Aitchison’s career as an educator began in 1929. He taught high school from 1929 until 1933 and lectured at Brandon College (1935-1938), University of Toronto (1938-1939), and McMaster (1939-1941). Aitchison then became an associate professor at Victoria College (1946-1948). He also served with the Canadian Army from 1942 to 1946, reaching the rank of Major.
Aitchison came to Dalhousie in 1949 and served as head or chairman of the Department of Political Science until 1973. His research centred on Canadian politics and government and he wrote profusely on the topic. He also edited The Political Process in Canada: Essays in Honour of R. MacGregor Dawson in 1963. Aitchison was active in the Dalhousie community and served as the first president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association in 1951. Even after his retirement, Aitchison maintained a close connection with Dalhousie’s Department of Political Science, continuing to work in his office as late as 1993 at age eighty-five. He was also active in a number of professional organizations, including the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Social Science Research Council of Canada, where he served as president and chairman, respectively.
In the 1960s, Aitchison was also involved with the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party, serving as chairman of the committee for the party (1961-1962), party president (1962-1964), president and acting leader (1964-1966), and leader (1966-1968). He also ran unsuccessfully for election in the 1962 and 1965 federal elections, as well as in the 1967 provincial election.
In 1993, Aitchison’s contributions to his field were honoured by the Atlantic Provinces Political Science Association. He died in Halifax on July 12, 1994.