George Wilfred Simpson was a descendant of Loyalists who resettled in Canada after the American Revolution. He received his primary and secondary education in Ontario. After a brief stint as a schoolteacher and homesteader in Saskatchewan, he enrolled in the College of Arts at the University of Saskatchewan and graduated with a BA in 1919. He earned an MA in History from the University of Toronto in 1930. Simpson taught at the University of Saskatchewan from 1922 to 1957, eventually becoming Head of the History Department and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Science. During World War II, he was Chair of the Advisory Committee on Co-operation in the Canadian Citizenship Branch of the Department of National War Services. He helped initiate the formation of the Saskatchewan Archives, and was the first provincial archivist from 1945 to 1948. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing Saskatchewan History, a publication of the Saskatchewan Archives, in 1948.
There was a large Slavic population in Saskatchewan, and Simpson befriended many members of the Slavic community. As a non-Slav he helped them considerably to raise their image vis-à-vis the predominant Anglo-Saxon population. Simpson was instrumental in introducing Slavic Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and helped establish similar programs in other Canadian universities. He was an editor of the first comprehensive history of Ukraine to be published in English, and wrote many articles on Ukrainian and Slavic history. In 1947, the Free Ukrainian University awarded Simpson an honorary Doctorate—following which, his colleagues in the department gave him the appellation “Ukrainian Scholar.” He was further honoured by the Royal Society of Canada, the Shevchenko Scientific Society, the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences, the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Association of Slavists, the American Historical Association, the Canadian and American Geographical Society, the Canadian Political Science Association, and many other scholarly societies and institutions. Simpson was also active in the United Nations Association and World Refugee Committee of Saskatchewan. In the 1960s, he served on the Board of Governors at the University of Saskatchewan. After his retirement in 1958, the University bestowed upon him an honorary Doctorate for being a “teacher of rare quality, inspiring, sympathetic, and greatly beloved.”
Victor O. Buyniak