In the past week two guys named Mike and Jim announced they were stepping down from the organizations they helped build. It is worth pausing to consider how they helped to change our country and our world.
A lot of attention has focused on the decision by Mike Lazaridis to resign as vice-chair at BlackBerry, formerly Research In Motion. As a co-founder, and resident genius, Mr. Lazaridis is credited with developing the first smartphones. He did more to change our world than perhaps any living Canadian has.
More than that, his decision to invest some of his resulting fortune into establishing the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Waterloo, Ont., opens the possibility that he will one day change the world again; that, together with Quantum Valley Investment, a new investment fund he has co-founded, which seeks to develop commercially advances in quantum science.
Mr. Lazaridis timed his departure well, after the launch of the outstanding new BlackBerry Z10, and with the future of the company looking somewhat more secure by the day.
Jim Marsh's contribution is of a very different kind, one that would seem at the outset almost antithetical to Mr. Lazaridis'. Mr. Marsh was for 33 years the editor-in-chief of The Canadian Encyclopedia, an old-world idea – gathering knowledge in books. At the time it was established in Edmonton by the publisher Mel Hurtig, Canada did not have its own encyclopedia. Its schools and its libraries made do with very poor, foreign substitutes that failed to reflect the wonder and the experience of the country.
Mr. Marsh was the scholar who oversaw the publication of several print editions of The Canadian Encyclopedia – which sold over 700,000 volumes, the translation of the encyclopedia into French, and eventually the inevitable shift online.
To the extent that Canadians know more about their country as a result, Mr. Marsh's contribution has been great.