John Heard

(1907-76) Director of the David Dunlap Observatory (1951-65), RASC President (1953-54).

JOHN F. HEARD (1907-76) was born in St Thomas, Ontario, where Ken Chilton's father was among his school chums. He attended the University of Western Ontario (H.R. Kingston was one of his professors) and McGill where he took a course in astrophysics from A.V. Douglas and obtained his Ph.D. in physics. He then went to London, England, for a second Ph.D. and there met H.H. Plaskett who encouraged him to apply for a position at the soon-to-be opened DDO. Heard's qualifications and Plaskett's letter of reference secured him a position and, following a year of post-doctoral work at Yerkes Observatory near Chicago, he joined the staff in Toronto in 1935. For the first four months he wasn't paid at all, but made himself useful aligning and testing the telescope and putting the spectrograph together. He then assumed the position of demonstrator at a salary of $1,620 per year. During World War II he headed several air navigation schools attaining the rank of Squadron Leader with the RCAF. Returning to the University, he rose through the academic ranks and became head of the Astronomy Department and director of the Observatory in 1952, positions which he held until his retirement in 1965 following his first heart attack.

He originally joined the Montreal Centre of the RASC in 1930, and rejoined the Toronto Centre in 1935. He was a popular speaker in many Centres and gave more than one course of several lectures to Toronto Centre. He was on the Centre Council for thirty years including a term as President 1947-48, Nationally, he served as Vice-President and President 1949-54, Treasurer for most of the '60s, and chaired the Property and Constitution Committees at very demanding times. The Service Award in 1965 was small reward for his dedication. Many of his delightful reminiscences were collected and published in the Journal following his death.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

  • Obituary in JRASC (February 1977)
  • People and Places: Collected Reminiscenses of John Frederick Heard
    • Part 1, JRASC (April 1979)
    • Part 2, JRASC (June 1979)
    • Part 3, JRASC (August 1979)
  • Minor Planet (3023) Heard, JRASC (February 1986)
  • JRASC articles by J.F. Heard.
Heard, John F.