The nation’s timekeeper: McGill and the Dominion Observatory

Image from McGill Archives, lithograph circa 1860s:  In this idealized artist’s sketch, the McGill Observatory is the building at the top left side.

Image from McGill Archives, lithograph circa 1860s: In this idealized artist’s sketch, the McGill Observatory is the building at the top left side.

The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences marks its 50th anniversary this year, but meteorological work at McGill began about 150 years ago inside a stone tower built by the Dominion of Canada to track the north star and keep time for the freight trains. Known locally as the McGill Observatory, this tower enclosed a 7-foot telescope and stood on the bluff just behind what is today the Leacock Building. “The nation’s timekeeper” was housed inside this tower, and most of Canada’s clocks in the last century were set by McGill’s time!
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Toppermost of the poppermost

Student Holding Successful Exam PaperMcGill aspires to be one of the world’s Grande Ecoles.  How do we get there, from where we are now?  When I started as Dean of Science several years ago, this is something to which I gave a lot of thought, and I still think about it a lot. A meeting I had with a Dean at another University from Europe when I started snapped this into focus for me.

At the time, both of us were young (in Dean years) newly-minted academic administrators – or more precisely, and with the benefit of hindsight, both of us were know-nothing, overly-aggressive academic administrators, who thought we had all the solutions to all issues.  Both our institutions were highly ranked on respected international scales.   And both of us were committed to moving our Faculties up in those rankings. (more…)

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