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RASC Brochure

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THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY OF CANADA The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is an organization devoted to the advancement of astronomy and allied sciences. Membership in the Society is open to anvone in the world interested in astronomy. Most of the professional astronomers in Canada are members, but amateurs contribute largely to the total membership.

The Society has a long history. Its origins go back to 1868 when a Toronto Astronomical Club was founded by eight amateur astronomers. In 1890 an expanded group obtained a charter under the Revised Statutes of Ontario as the "Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto." In 1903, King Edward VII permitted the use of the word "Royal" and the name of the Society became "The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada."

From 85 members in 1893, the Society has now grown to nearly 2,000 members. For some years after incorporation, the regular meetings of the Society were held at the residences of the members. As it grew, they were shifted to buildings of the University of Toronto.

In 1905, a branch was formed at Ottawa, and thus the idea of Centres of the Society came into being. There are now 13 such Centres in Canada, stretching from Halifax in the east to Victoria in the west, and a 14th is in progress of organization at Calgary. Once every year, when the annual meeting is held, representatives from these Centres meet together.

It is hardly possible in. a few words to indicate the enormous scope of the Society's activities, and the real power that they give to astronomical knowledge and interest in Canada. There are two main areas of activities sponsored by the Society. One area is the publications. The JOURNAL appears bi-monthly, six issues a year, as a medium for spreading astronomical knowledge in Canada, and the work of Canadian astronomers internationally. The OBSERVER'S HANDBOOK appears each year, a compendium of about 80 pages of information invaluable for any person who wishes to "keep up with the sky."

The other activities are those of the Centres. Each Centre of the Society conducts programs of its own. At regular, scheduled meetings, most of which are open to the general public, well-known astronomers give popular lectures on current topics cif interest. These lectures, sponsored by the Centres, provide students at Canadian universities with opportunities to hear distinguished astronomers of international importance, and hence have a real effect in encouraging scientific training. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is one of this country's great assets for interesting young people in science.

The Centres organize other activities. Members take part in various kinds of sky observations, such as the study of aurorae, meteors, sun-spots, variable stars and artificial satellites. In regions where numbers permit a Telescope Makers' Group to be established, the members of the group are eager to help new members who wish to construct a telescope.


Each Centre has its own set of officers and its own activities. These differ from Centre to Centre, according to the interests and training of the individual members. A detailed account of the usual activities of each Centre will be found in Appendix A of this pamphlet, which gives also visiting hours at big Observatories. Most Centres schedule special Star Nights during mild summer weather when hundreds or thousands of people have a chance to look through telescopes-many for the first time in their lives. The Toronto Centre, for example, has a special display during the entire Canadian National Exhibition. New Centres may be established at any time within Canada when there is sufficient, continued interest to warrant this. A minimum of twenty-five persons, meeting together. for at least a year, is the usual standard before a charter can be granted to a Centre. Our Constitution does not permit the Society to accept as Centres groups outside Canada, but these may be considered affiliated groups, it they so wish.

Out of activities of the Society have come several great assets to Canadian astronomy. The David Dunlap Observatory, near Toronto, the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory at London, the Planetarium at McMaster University and the recently established Observatory of the Montreal Centre have come into being because of the influence of the Society.


Since 1908, the Society has received financial support from the Government of Canada, and of the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Without this help it would not have been able to carry out its important program of publications. In. 1956, the Society passed a milestone when it purchased its own home, after renting various office suites for half a century. Its permanent home is a substantial brick property in the heart of Toronto, near the corner of College Street and Spadina Avenue. This location is ideal for easy access to the University, being just a block west of the present campus, but directly south of and adjacent to the new extension campus. To reach the Society headquarters by public transportation you may take a Spadina street car or bus, or a Carlton street car. Under The supervision of The Executive Secretary, the office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.rn., Monday through Friday, and the phone number is Walnut 3-3784.

At headquarters is housed the astronomical library of the Society which contains several thousands of volumes of monographs and astronomical periodicals. Over fifty periodicals are received regularly, most of them in exchange for the Society's JOURNAL. A set of 700 astronomical slides is also here. Any of these books or slides may be borrowed by mail.

The Society offers two medals each year, the Chant Medal for the most outstanding Canadian amateur contribution to Astronomy and the Gold  for the student who graduates from the Mathematics and Physics course at the University of Toronto with the highest standing in Astronomy.

The Annual dues of the Society are $5 for members and $3 for student members who send a letter from their educational institution certifying that they are full-time students. Life membership is $75.


RASC Brochure 1958 (PDF)416.53 KB
RASC Brochure 1958 (DJVU)327.71 KB