The Right Honourable
Lester Bowles Pearson


"I have done it by hard work and long hours, by making it evident that I was available for whatever was to be done; by welcoming every opportunity for new and more responsible duties; and by accumulating all the experience possible in all the varied aspects of my profession." Lester Pearson, in his memoirs, 1972

Private Life

Did You Know?

Pearson was quite an athlete in his youth, excelling in both lacrosse and ice hockey.

  • Born: April 23, 1897, Newton Brook, Ontario.
  • Education: University of Toronto, B.A., 1919. Oxford University (scholarship), England, B.A. in Modern History, 1923, M.A., 1925.
  • Marriage: Maryon Moody (1902-1991) in 1925.
    • One son and one daughter.
  • Lieutenant in the Canadian Army Medical, 1914-1917.
    • Pearson had begun schooling at the University of Toronto in 1913, but left at the outbreak of World War I to enlist. He worked for 2 years as a medical orderly in a military hospital in Salonika.
  • Flying Officer in the Royal Flying Corps, 1917-1918.
    • Pearson trained as a pilot at an air training school in Hendon, England. He survived an airplane crash during his first flight but, ironically, was hit by a London bus during a blackout and was sent home as an invalid to recuperate.
  • History lecturer at the University of Toronto, 1923-1928.
  • Department of External Affairs, 1928-1948.
    • While doing research at the Public Archives in Ottawa, Pearson was invited to join the Department. He scored highest in the departmental exams and was appointed first secretary.
    • Pearson proved himself to be a natural diplomat. He was hard-working and was quick to digest and understand complex issues.
    • Pearson was easy-going and friendly (as a result of his rural up-bringing). This charm quickly earned him the respect and trust of virtually every nation he encountered. The secret to his success as a diplomat was realizing that any successful compromise must spare all parties involved from any humiliations, and he used his congeniality to disarm hostile negotiators and turn them into 'friends'.

    Did You Know?

    Whilst training for the air corps, Pearson's flying instructor felt that 'Lester' was not a proper name for a flying ace and began to call him 'Mike'. For the rest of his life, Lester Pearson was affectionately known as 'Mike' by his friends and associates.

  • First Secretary at the Canadian High Commission in Britain, 1935-1941.
  • Moved to the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, 1942.
  • Canadian Ambassador to the United States, 1945-1946.
    • Attended the conference which founded the United Nations.
  • Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, 1946, where he played a key role in Canada's joining NATO (North American Treaty Organization).
  • Chairman of the NATO Council, 1951-1952.
  • President of the United Nations General Assembly, 1952-1953, where he attempted to resolve the Korean conflict.
  • Professor and Chancellor at Carleton University, 1969-1972.
  • Author.
  • Died: December 27, 1972, in Ottawa, Ontario, of cancer. Buried in MacLaren Cemetery, Wakefield, Quebec.

Political Career

Did You Know?

After graduating in 1919, Pearson worked for 2 years in a meat processing plant named 'Armour and Company'. Years later, he joked that the Russians claimed that he had once worked for an armament manufacturer.

  • Constituencies: Algoma East, Ontario, 1948-1968.
    • To advance to the next logical step from Deputy Minister of External Affairs to Minister of External Affairs, Pearson had to enter politics. He won his seat in the House of Commons for Algoma East and served in the Cabinet for Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent.
  • Minister of External Affairs, 1948-1957.
    • In 1956, the French and British were pitted against the Egyptians over the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis, threatening to plunge the world into yet another war. Pearson met with the United Nations and proposed a peace-keeping force comprising soldiers from all nations to be set up. The force would be installed into hostilities to oversee any cease-fires and would supervise the withdrawal of any combatants from the war zones. The UN readily agreed upon the proposal and the first United Nations Peace-Keeping Force', led by Canadian troops, entered the Suez conflict and brought it to a successful end.
  • Winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, 1957, for his efforts in creating the United Nations Peace-Keeping Force.
  • Leader of the Opposition, 1958-1963.
  • Liberal Party Leader, 1958-1968, after St. Laurent retired as prime minister.
    • Pearson won a minority government in 1963 and tried to win a majority government in 1965. The attempt failed and Pearson continued with support from the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Social Credit Party.
  • Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, 1963, leading to a bilingual civil service.
  • Created the Canada Pension Plan, 1965.
  • Signed the Canada-United States Automotive Agreement Pact, 1965.
  • Unveiled Canada's new national flag, 1965.
  • Universal Medicare for all Canadians, 1966.
  • Oversaw Canada's Centennial celebrations, 1967, making Canadians aware of their great heritage.
  • Pearson had a knack for recognizing talent and ability in people. Three future prime ministers were all members of Pearson's Cabinet in 1965 (Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chrétien).
  • Pearson retired from politics in 1968 at the age of 71. He returned to the academic world, lecturing on Canadian foreign relations at Carleton University in Ottawa. Meanwhile, he wrote his memoirs before his death in 1972.

*(Progressive) Conservative *Liberal *Unionist/Conservative

* Macdonald * Mackenzie * Abbott * Thompson * Bowell
* Tupper * Laurier * Borden * Meighen * King
* Bennett * St. Laurent * Diefenbaker * Pearson * Trudeau
* Clark * Turner * Mulroney * Campbell * Chrétien