Celebrating the History of Radio Astronomy in Canada

By/par Tim Robishaw, DRAO
(Cassiopeia – Autumn/l’automne 2016)

A workshop on the history of Canadian radio astronomy was held July 25 and 26 at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO).

Workshop participants under the John A. Galt 26-m telescope.

Workshop participants under the John A. Galt 26-m telescope.

Workshop participants under the John A. Galt 26-m telescope.

Workshop participants under the John A. Galt 26-m telescope.

Nametags of workshop participants were customized with telescopes and observatories from their past.

Nametags of workshop participants were customized with telescopes and observatories from their past.

A major motivation for the event was the work of the late Richard Jarrell (York University), the author of “The Cold Light of Dawn: A History of Canadian Astronomy”. Richard collected an extensive archive on the history of Canadian radio astronomy, including many interviews with all the original players. Richard had just begun writing a book on this topic at the time of his passing in late 2013. A group of Canadian radio astronomers hopes to finish writing this book following the outline Richard provided and using his archival material. To this end, in addition to topics of worldwide importance to the history of radio astronomy, contributions were solicited on topics pertaining to the development of radio astronomy in Canada. Richard’s wife, Martha, attended the workshop and hand-delivered Richard’s archives and interviews to DRAO where they will be housed.

The workshop included 27 talks covering a breadth of stories about the development of radio astronomy at Canada’s universities and observatories. The nearly 50 attendees took part in a discussion about practicing history led by Woody Sullivan (University of Washington), Miller Goss (NRAO)—both active historians of radio astronomy—and NRAO Archivist, Ellen Bouton.

A website containing videos of the talks and photos from the workshop can be found here. And thanks to Joseph Fletcher (NRC, retired) and Bob Hayward (NRAO, retired), we now have video of a 1987 NRC workshop entitled “Radio Astronomy and Canada: Fifty Years of Progress”. These videos can also be found at the above website.
If you prefer to view the videos directly, the Youtube links to the workshop playlists are below:

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