Erika E. Gaertner

Erika Gaertner immigrated as a teenager from what is now the Czech Republic to Canada with her parents in the spring of 1939, following her father’s recruitment as a farmer by the Canadian Pacific Railway on behalf of the Canadian government. Upon graduation in Botany, from the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) in Guelph, she completed her master’s and doctoral degrees at Cornell University. Following her graduation, she continued her botany research at the Geneva Seed Lab and returned to McMaster University in Hamilton to lecture. Her research on muskeg took her to Churchill, Manitoba, and then to Abisco in northern Sweden following the 1950 Botanical Congress in Stockholm.

In 1953 Erika married Donald Fraser (Ph.D. Toronto) and moved to the Petawawa Forest Experiment Station near Chalk River, Ontario. Her research collaborations with her husband Donald resulted in many joint publications, conference presentations, and lecture travels to universities and institutes across North America, Europe, and the Soviet Union. With a publication record starting before her marriage, Erika kept her professional identity as Dr. Gaertner, while being known socially as Mrs. Fraser.

With her two children (Steven and Spruce) and her husband, she enjoyed botanizing and experimenting with “nature’s nibbles”. Her first book, Harvest without Planting, was published as a Canadian Centennial project in 1967. In 1970, she and her family moved to Montreal where Erika taught at Concordia University and continued her work as a freelance lecturer and researcher. Retiring to Trenton, Ontario, in the mid-80s with her husband, Donald, she authored her second book, Reap without Sowing, and enjoyed travels to destinations as far-ranging as the Soviet Union, Ecuador, China, Europe, and Africa.

In 1999, Erika moved to Ottawa, where Donald had became a resident at the Perley Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. With Donald’s passing in 2003, she frequently wintered at her son’s home in California to escape the winter chill of Ottawa. Written in collaboration with her son Steven Fraser, From the Heart of Europe to the Wonders of Canada is Erika’s third and most ambitious book. It documents her education, research, family, and a lifetime of exploration of flora.

Steven Fraser received his doctorate from McGill University in Electrical Engineering after completing studies in Software Engineering, Engineering Physics, Computer Science and Physics. His R&D experience spans five multi-national companies (Nortel, Qualcomm, Cisco, HP, and Innoxec) and he has authored papers, delivered keynotes, curated programs, and moderated panels for more than 75 international conferences on innovation and technology. Steven consults on strategies to broker company-university research partnerships and accelerate the adoption of emergent technologies.