Arthur Harvey

(1834-1905) F.R.S.C., F.R.A.S.C. President of the society (1898-99); Honorary President and Director, La Institutio Solar Internacional (Monte Video, Uruguay).


ARTHUR HARVEY (1834-1905) was a polymath, publishing papers on the grain trade, the reciprocity treaty, the Canadian Census of 1871, metrication, botany, geology, pathology, anthropology, philosophy, physics and, of course, many on astronomy. He came to Canada in 1856 after education in England, France, Holland and at Trinity College, Dublin. After working for a number of newspapers in Hamilton, Montreal and Quebec (where he married), he began a career as a statistician with the government of Canada 1862-70. During his time in Ottawa, Harvey also founded the Year Book and Almanac of British North America in 1867 was active in the Natural History Society, serving as its Secretary in 1867-68. He then moved to Toronto to become manager of an insurance company and president of a loan and land company. His astronomical interests were very broad also. He saw and wrote about Donati's Comet of 1858 and the Comet 1861 II. He wrote on the parallax of the aurora and was invited to contribute his views to Nature. He spoke at meetings on several occasions on topics including eclipses, the telescope, observatories, Roentgen's discoveries, the synchronism of northern and southern auroras, meteors and meteorites and contributed 25 papers to the Society's publications on an equally dazzling array of subjects. His investigations into solar-terrestrial relationships led to his election as Honorary President and Director of the Institutio Solar Internacional Montevideo, Uruguay. He claimed to have discovered the emission in solar radiation of negatively charged particles and to have been the first to announce a 27.5 day periodicity in magnetic disturbances on earth.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Just as the last pages of this volume [RASC 1904 SPP] were on the press came the news of the death, at his late residence, 80 Crescent Road, of our former president Mr. Arthur Harvey. We append a short sketch of his active and useful life.

Mr. Arthur Harvey was born in England, April 23rd, 1834, and educated chiefly in France and the Netherlands, with the latter of which countries his family had long been connected. Returning from the Continent he entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1852, and in 1855 added a special course in actuarial science, in London, where Prof. De Morgan was the great lodestone for students. Coming to Canada in 1856, Mr. Harvey first took service as assistant editor, or "scissors", to a newspaper in Brantford, but soon removed to Hamilton, where he became associated with the "Spectator." Being one of the two swiftest shorthand writers in Canada, and as well able to follow a French as an English orator, he lived in Toronto during the sessions of Parliament, and, on the removal of the seat of government to Quebec, took up residence there as confidential correspondent of the Spectator, and engaged in literary work generally, as a writer of magazine articles. For a time Mr. Harvey was editor of the Quebec "Chronicle", and developed a liking for statistics. A small pamphlet on the grain trade of the basin of the Lakes, in which graphic statistics were used for the first time in Canada, brought him the friendship of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Alexander Galt, whom he assisted in preparing the Budget of 1862, which in turn led to his being appointed to a position in the Department of Finance, nominally as statistical clerk but really as confidential aid to the minister of Finance. In this capacity he served under several ministers, being entrusted with important inquiries for each. Thus, for Sir Alexander Galt he investigated the working of the Reciprocity Treaty, and was the secretary of the commission sent to Washington by the Five Provinces to negotiate for its renewal. For Mr. Holton he investigated the expenditures for printing and supplies to the Departments and organized a new and regular tariff of charges and a system of checks which resulted in large public savings. For Mr. (now Sir) William P. Howland he examined Interprovincial Trade and its probable development on the removal of tariffs and the completion of an Intercolonial Railway. For Mr. Gait, again minister, he collected the statistics of the several Provinces in view of their approaching confederation, spending several months at the capitals of the Maritime Provinces, for this purpose. With the leave of the Government a great part of this work was published as the Year Book of British North America, 1867, and of Canada, 1868 and 1869, and Mr. Harvey always regarded it as his magnum opus. It entitles him to be looked on as the father of Canadian statistics. The collection, completion and summing up of materials independently and often imperfectly gathered is no slight work. The general summary, communicated to his chief, Mr. Harvey understood to have been used in London in laying down the basis for Confederation; and the Year Book, which was in more complete and scientific shape than any national statistical work except that officially published for Italy, was the standard for reference during all the Provincial debates on that union which followed. Under Sir John Rose the chief work done by Mr. Harvey was the suggestion and preparation of the first Canadian insurance law, which called for the making of regular annual returns and for the deposit of a sum of money as a guarantee of permanency. All these ministers had been Mr. Harvey's personal friends, but when Sir Francis Hincks was appointed to the office, Mr. Harvey resigned his most agreeable and (for a civil servant) well paid position, and came to Toronto in 1870 to take charge of the Provincial Insurance Company. After several years' labor in building up the finances of the company, on the eve of success, a conflagration year came along, and with the fire at St. John, N.B., (1877) as a climax, he thought it most honor- able to wind up its affairs. From that time he did not engage in important public enterprises.

Mr. Harvey has always been actively concerned in the work of scientific, literary and other societies. He was secretary of the Horticultural Society at Hamilton, and the real founder of the Hamilton (Scientific) Association. He was a hard-working secretary of the St. George's Society at Quebec and a member of the Literary and Historical Society there. At Ottawa he formed and was Sec'y-Treasurer of the Civil Service Building and Savings Society, and was largely instrumental in the erection of St. Alban's church—both urgently needed. On coming to Toronto, several building societies here and in other places wished him to value their terminable mortgages, and being unwilling to divert his attention from the affairs of the Provincial Insurance Company, he published the Tables he had prepared for his own use, which were the first tables anywhere printed for the valuation of mortgages repayable by monthly payments. In due time he joined the Canadian Institute and was its President in 1891 and 1892. In 1890 he was a delegate to a function at Montpelier, France, where he addressed the meeting in French, which the other delegates were surprised to find was not a patois; and he expressed the hope that some day France would take a less narrow view of the Newfoundland French Shore question. He became a member of the Astronomical Society and was its President in 1898 and 1899. The Transactions of these Societies contain several papers from his pen. His specialty was the investigation of the connection between solar and terrestrial phenomena (see p.xiv ante) for which the records of the Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory here give many of the necessary data. In recognition of his work on solar phenomena he was elected Honorary President and Director, La Institutio Solar Internacional, Monte Video, Uruguay; and just shortly before his death was elected a Fellow of this Society. In 1894 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and the bibliography which each Fellow has to prepare, for election, can be referred to in the proceedings for that year (Vol. XII) as an evidence of the fertility of his pen. Later he published a work on "Decimals and Decimalisation", being a historical resume of the movements preceding the adoption in France and other countries of the metric system, of which system Mr. Harvey was a warm advocate. The Transactions of this Society for 1902Ä3 were edited under his supervision. Though Mr. Harvey preferred his literary to his scientific papers his most recent contribution to the Canadian Institute, on "The Principles of Insurance, with Special Reference to Sick Benefits", (the "proofs" of which he was correcting an hour or two before his death), seems to indicate a desire to aid in the establishment of a system of relief in sickness and old age, not based on German precedent but adapted to Canadian conditions.

Mr. Harvey was a most versatile man. He had a remarkable mastery of languages living and dead, and was highly accomplished both in music and art. In debate he was a strenuous fighter, but when the fight was over no one was gentler or kinder than he.

—RASC 1904 Selected Papers and Proceedings

Harvey, Arthur