Paul-Henri Nadeau

(1910-90) An active observer and astronomy popularizer; Chant Medal 1945.

PAUL-HENRI NADEAU (1910-90) grew up in Quebec City, took classical studies at the Seminary and graduated in Chemistry from the Université de Laval. Though his interest in astronomy was piqued by reading Flammarion's Astronomie Populaire when he was 19, studies and work kept his enthusiasm dormant. Employed as a chemist for the Quebec government, some years passed before he was able to take a sabbatical leave to study astronomy at an American university.

Nadeau began writing articles on astronomy (and chess) for the newspapers in 1940, and soon had a regular page every Friday in L'Action Catholique. His writings stimulated a great deal of interest which led to the establishment of the observatory on the Plains of Abraham and to the formation of the Quebec Centre of the RASC. Because of his success, the Quebec government took the unusual step of setting up an Astronomical Service and naming Nadeau as the Director. This appointment allowed him to devote his full energies to writing, public education and observing. Being unmarried, he put heart and soul, and evidently a lot of personal money, into his work even to the extent of establishing a time service. He continued his weekly astronomy column until about 1970, edited an Annuaire Graphique from 1944 to 1988, and translated C.A. Chant's popular book, Our Wonderful Universe, into French. The proceeds from this latter project went to a fund for a future public observatory which was a life-long dream of Nadeau.

As a teacher of telescope making and an active observer of variable stars, sunspots, auroras and meteors, he was always at the observatory every clear night, for public viewing in the early evening and observing later. His only failing was that he took everything on his own shoulders and was reluctant to share responsibility with others.

Within the Society, Nadeau was Secretary of the Quebec Centre from 1942 to 1966, Treasurer from 1947 to 1966. He served on the National Council from 1943 to 1946. PauI-H. Nadeau received the Chant medal in 1945. He was acknowledged for his expertise in being named by the Society to the National Committee for Canada of the IAU in 1952 and by the Quebec government to a Committee in 1965 to inquire into the state of astronomy in the province. He was proud of his nephew, Daniel, who became an astronomer at the Université de Montreal.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

  • Examen d'un Miroir parabolique de 40-cm. d'Ouverture, JRASC (August 1943)
  • The Quebec Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (with Plates VI, VII), JRASC (October 1944)
  • The Total Eclipse of the Sun, July 9, 1945- Observations at Quebec, JRASC (September 1945)
  • Weather Cycle and Sun-spot Activity, JRASC (September 1946)
Nadeau, Paul-Henri