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Robert Meldrum Stewart

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(1878-1954) Dominion Observatory Director (1924-46); Society President (1924-25).


R. MELDRUM STEWART (1878-1954) was born into a missionary family in Gladstone, Manitoba. He probably appears as a child among the hundreds of his father's photographs in the Public Archives of Canada. Until he entered high school in Ontario at the age of 11, the only teacher "Bert" ever had was his father who instilled in him a love of classics, literature and astronomy. He did brilliantly at school and won many scholarships including the Gold Medal in Mathematics and Physics when he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1902.

Immediately on graduation, he was appointed by the federal government to the staff of the Chief Astronomer's Office, Department of the Interior. When the Dominion Observatory opened in 1905, Stewart was put in charge of the meridian-circle work and the time service. He became Assistant Director in 1918 and Director in 1924, a position which he held until his retirement in 1946.

Stewart served the Ottawa Centre from 1907 to 1914 successively as Treasurer, Vice-Chairman and Chairman and was their Honorary President from 1949-54. At the national level he was Vice-President and President from 1923-25. Throughout his career he willingly spoke at meetings of Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Winnipeg Centres. One of his early lectures to the Ottawa Centre in 1911 was on the Principle of Relativity. His papers in the Journal span the years 1907-49, with "The Early History of Astronomical Activity in the Canadian Public Service" appearing posthumously in 1971.

His kindness and modesty are evident in the remarks he made when he retired as RASC President in 1926. He expressed satisfaction that his successor, Mr. Hunter, "who had done the work of the past two years would for the next year or two have the honour as well."

ā€”Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)


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Stewart, Robert Meldrum
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