Bob Gibson Biography

William Robert Gibson

A lifelong love affair with books and reading

The man behind the remarkable collection of science fiction material that has been given to the University of Calgary was an artist, commissionaire, father, war veteran and, needless to say, avid reader.

Bob GibsonWilliam Robert (Bob) Gibson was born in 1908 into a farming family in Springbank, Alberta. Books and reading seized his imagination from early childhood; Jules Verne was an early favourite. Reading became even more important during a year-long period when scarlet fever kept him largely confined to his bed. Later, as a teenager, Bob would walk from Springbank into Calgary in order to borrow books from the downtown library.

Andrew Gibson, Bob's 36-year-old son, speculates that his father's interest in collecting books may have stemmed from an incident when Bob witnessed his father pitch his grandfather's collection of books and magazines down a well in order to make more room in the house. That material remained visible - and agonizingly unreachable - for years after.

Although he was one of the older volunteers, Bob served with an artillery unit in the Second World War from 1939-45, in England, Sicily & Italy. On his return to Calgary he found an outlet for his artistic talents through drawing and ceramics. In addition to work as a part-time commissionaire, he taught ceramics classes through the Allied Arts Council and set up an artistic ceramics business in his garage, complete with two electric kilns. In 1958, he met a student named Renata who became his wife in 1959.

A few decades later a bicycle accident on Crowchild Trail forced him to break a contract to deliver ceramic figurines. He never returned to it. He dedicated his weekdays to reading and collecting books and stayed on as a weekend commissionaire, an occupation that allowed him even more time to indulge his interests.

Bob's book collecting pursuits made him a well-known figure at used book stores around Calgary, where he could often be seen checking titles against his own holdings that he documented in several binders. His network of contacts extended to England, where he regularly visited relatives, as well as a number of Canadian cities. Andrew recalls that used bookstores were high on the itinerary whenever the family visited a new city.

Bob died on January 8, 2001 at the age of 92. His preservation of an important literary, cultural and historical resource leaves a lasting legacy for future generations of students and scholars.


A science fiction timeline
From invading Martians
to Cyberpunk

1898 H. G. Wells publishes The War of the Worlds

1908 William Robert (Bob) Gibson is born in Springbank, Alberta

1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs publishes Tarzan of the Apes in All-Story Magazine

1923 The first issue of Weird Tales magazine is published

1932 Aldous Huxley publishes Brave New World

1951-1953 Isaac Asimov publishes The Foundation Trilogy

1939-1945 Bob Gibson serves in the Second World War in Italy

1950 Ray Bradbury publishes The Martian Chronicles

1959 Bob Gibson marries his wife Renata

1959 Walter M. Miller publishes A Canticle for Leibowitz

1966 Andrew Gibson is born, the only child of Bob and Renata

1965 Frank Herbert publishes Dune

1977 Star Wars hits the big screen

1984 William Gibson (no relation to the family) publishes Neuromancer

1992 Andrew Gibson graduates with his second U of C degree, a master's in electrical engineering

1996 Stephen King publishes The Green Mile

2001 Bob Gibson dies at the age of 92

2001 Andrew Gibson approaches U of C about donating Bob's collection

2002 U of C announces the Gibson gift, which will be one of the largest science fiction research collections of its kind anywhere in the world