Marsh, Rev. D.B.

Rev. D.B. Marsh, an active observer and promoter of astronomy with the Guelph, Peterboro, and Hamilton Centres.


Daniel Brand Marsh died in Hamilton on September 22, aged 74 years. He was born on a farm near Walter's Falls, not far from Meaford, Ont. He attributed to his mother his early interest in astronomy which was quickened by first lessons given him with the aid of a small telescope. His natural inclination towards mechanics was shown by his construction at the age of 15 years of a small steam engine, made from material around his home. His finer mechanical gifts were further developed by apprenticeship to a watchmaker. This served him well in later years when he undertook to construct a number of telescopes. After attending Knox College, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, he entered the ministry of the Presbyterian Church, a connection he maintained to the time of his death. Whilst a busy minister he purchased a lathe and its necessary accessories and set it up in the basement of his home. Here he spent his spare hours constructing various mechanical devices, among them being a stethoscope, an audiphone and a cylinder phonograph after the pattern of Edison's. In 1901 he became a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and then during his leisure turned his attention to constructing refracting telescopes. A number of these were made with equatorial mounting and driven by clock work, Brashear or Watson-Conrady object glasses being employed while the mechanical parts were the work of his own hands. A number of these instruments were placed throughout Canada and have been admired for their excellence of workmanship.

Dr. Marsh was mainly responsible for the formation of Centres of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at Peterboro, Guelph and Hamilton. His ministerial work called him to Bermuda for the period 1920 to 1925, where his untiring energy would not allow him to neglect astronomical matters. While there he not only interested the public in astronomy but also assisted navigators by giving time and correcting their instruments. In 1925 he was the leader of the party sent by the Bermuda government to New Haven, Conn., to view and photograph the eclipse of the sun.

Before returning to Canada he visited Trinidad and British Guiana and while there contracted malaria from which he apparently never entirely recovered. He presented a telescope to Capt. Bernier who had it with him during his arctic voyages. One of his telescopes was presented to the Presbyterian College an Indore, India, where is still in use. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1904.

He was a member of the Astronomical Society of France, of Belgium and of Mexico. In 1905 he was a member of the Canadian Government eclipse party sent to Labrador, and in August of last year [1932] headed the Hamilton party at Acton Vale, Québec, where he succeeded in securing several excellent photographs of the eclipse. In his photographic outfit was included a concave lens inserted inside the focus of the telescope, somewhat similar to that known as a Barlow lens, to amplify the resulting image. A few weeks before his death Dr. Marsh was the recipient of a grant of $1,000 from the Dominion Government in recognition of his long service in the interests of astronomy in Canada. Dr. Marsh was given degrees in philosophy and science through a post-graduate course in Chicago.

There are left in the immediate family his widow, Cora Burling Marsh, who has always assisted him in his work; two daughters, Mrs. Mary Marsh Mesnard, of Hamburg, N.Y., and Dr. Ina A. Marsh, of the Buffalo City Hospital; and a son, John A Marsh, of Hamilton, Past President of the Hamilton Centre, R.A.S.C., who was associated closely with his father in the latter years of his life. An older son, Lieut. James W. Marsh, who held an important position as a mechanical expert with the C.N.R., was killed in action at Passchendale in 1917.

JRASC, Vol. 27, pp.373-4 (Nov 1933)

Marsh, Rev. D.B.