Honorary Member: Sandford Fleming

Sir Sandford Fleming, KCMG (January 7, 1827 – July 22, 1915) was a Scottish-born Canadian engineer and inventor. He proposed worldwide standard time zones, designed Canada's first postage stamp, left a huge body of surveying and map making, engineered much of the Intercolonial Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was a founding member of the Royal Society of Canada and founder of the Royal Canadian Institute, a science organization in Toronto that served as landlord to the office of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada between 1898 and 1946.

In 1827, Fleming was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland to Andrew and Elizabeth Fleming. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed as a surveyor and in 1845, at the age of 18, he immigrated with his older brother David to Ontario (then the western half of the Province of Canada, at that time called Canada West). Their route took them through many cities of the Canadian colonies, Quebec City, Montreal, and Kingston, Ontario, before settling in Peterborough, Ontario with their cousins two years later in 1847. He qualified as a surveyor in Canada in 1849.

In 1849 he established the Royal Canadian Institute with several friends, which was formally incorporated on November 4, 1851. Although initially intended as a professional institute for surveyors and engineers it became a more general scientific society. In 1851 he designed the Threepenny Beaver, the first Canadian postage stamp. Throughout this time he was fully employed as a surveyor, mostly for the Grand Trunk Railway. His work for them eventually gained him the position as Chief Engineer of the Northern Railway of Canada in 1855, where he tirelessly advocated the construction of iron bridges instead of wood for safety reasons.

Fleming served in the 10th Battalion Volunteer Rifles of Canada (later known as the Royal Regiment of Canada) and was appointed to the rank of Captain on January 1, 1862. He retired from the militia in 1865.

As soon as he arrived in Peterborough in 1845, Fleming became friendly with the family of his future wife, the Halls, and was attracted to Jeanie Hall. However, it was not until a sleigh accident almost ten years later that the young people’s love for each other was revealed. A year after this incident, in January 1855, Sandford married Ann Jane (Jean) Hall. They were to have nine children of whom two died young. The oldest son, Frank Andrew, accompanied Fleming in his great Western expedition of 1872. A family man, deeply attached to his wife and children, he also welcomed his father Andrew Greig Fleming, Andrew's wife and six of their other children who came to join him in Canada two years after his arrival. The Fleming and Hall families saw each other often.

After the death of his wife Jeanie in 1888, Fleming`s niece Miss Elsie Smith, daughter of Alexander and Lily Smith, of Kingussie, Scotland, presided over his household "Winterholme" 213 Chapel Street, Ottawa, Ontario.

His time at the Northern Railway was marked by conflict with the architect Frederick William Cumberland, with whom he started the Canadian Institute and who was general manager until 1855. Starting as assistant engineer in 1852, Fleming replaced Cumberland in 1855 but was in turn ousted by him in 1862. In 1863 he became the chief government surveyor of Novia Scotia charged with the construction of a line from Truro to Pictou. When he would not accept the tenders from contractors that he considered too high, he was asked to bid for the work himself and completed the line by 1867 with great savings to the government and at profit to himself.

In 1862 he placed before the government a plan for a transcontinental railway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The first part, between Halifax and Quebec became an important part of the preconditions for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to join the Canadian Federation because of the uncertainties of travel through Maine because of the American Civil War. In 1867 he was appointed engineer-in-chief of the Intercolonial Railway which became a federal project and he continued in this post till 1876. His insistence on building the bridges of iron and stone instead of wood was controversial at the time, but was soon vindicated by their resistance to fire.

By 1871, the strategy of a railway connection was being used to bring British Columbia into federation and Fleming was offered the chief engineer post on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Although he hesitated because of the amount of work he had, in 1872 he set off with a small party to survey the route, particularly through the Rocky Mountains, finding a practicable route through the Yellowhead Pass. One of his companions, George Monro Grant wrote an account of the trip, which became a best-seller. By 1880, with 600 miles completed, a change of government brought a desire for a private company to own the whole project and Fleming was dismissed, with a $30,000 payoff. It was the hardest blow of Fleming's life, though he obtained a promise of monopoly, later revoked, on his next project, a trans-pacific telegraph cable. Nevertheless, in 1884 he became a director of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was present as the last spike was driven.

After missing a train in 1876 in Ireland because its printed schedule listed p.m. instead of a.m., he proposed a single 24-hour clock for the entire world, located at the centre of the Earth and not linked to any surface meridian. At a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute on February 8, 1879 he linked it to the anti-meridian of Greenwich (now 180°). He suggested that standard time zones could be used locally, but they were subordinate to his single world time, which he called Cosmic Time. He continued to promote his system at major international conferences including the International Meridian Conference of 1884. That conference accepted a different version of Universal Time, but refused to accept his zones, stating that they were a local issue outside its purview. Nevertheless, by 1929 all of the major countries of the world had accepted time zones.

In 1880 he retired from the world of surveying, and took the position of Chancellor of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He held this position for his last 35 years, where his former Minister George Monro Grant was principal from 1877 until Grant's death in 1902. Not content to leave well enough alone, he tirelessly advocated the construction of a submarine telegraph cable connecting all of the British Empire, the All Red Line, which was completed in 1902. He also kept up with business ventures, becoming in 1882 one of the founding owners of the Nova Scotia Cotton Manufacturing Company in Halifax. In 1880 he served as the vice president of the Ottawa Horticultural Society. His accomplishments were well known worldwide, and in 1897 he was knighted by Queen Victoria. He was a freemason. In his later years he retired to his house in Halifax, later deeding the house and the 95 acres (38 hectares) to the city, now known as Sir Sandford Fleming Park (Dingle Park). He also kept a residence in Ottawa, and was buried there, in the Beechwood Cemetery.

The town of Fleming, Saskatchewan (located on the Canadian Pacific Railway) was named in his honour in 1882. Fleming Hall was built in his honour at Queen's in 1901, and rebuilt after a fire in 1932. It was the home of the university's Electrical Engineering department. In Peterborough, Ontario, Fleming College, a Community College of Applied Arts and Technology bearing his name, was opened in 1967, with additional campuses in Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, and Cobourg. Also, the main building of University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and Sanford Fleming Academy are named after Fleming (Sandford Fleming building).

Sandford Fleming was elected an Honorary Member of the Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto on 1890-06-17. Sir Fleming stood as chairman of a joint committee of the Canadian Institute and the A.P.S of T. in 1893 on the subject of Astronomical Time Reckoning. He attended and briefly spoke at the meeting of 1893-06-15. At the meeting of the A.P.S. of T. of 1896-01-21, the Secretary read a letter received from Dr. Sandford Fleming, C.M.G., "...who had also forwarded some extracts from press reports respecting the recent meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers. It appeared that this Society had adopted a resolution in favour of petitioning the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the United States, praying them to accept and approve the resolutions of the Washington Conference of 1884, and to act in concert with other nations in this matter; and praying also that the Nautical Almanac of the United States be brought into harmony with those resolutions at the beginning of the 20th century". Sir Fleming continued to correspond with the Society.

The lunar crater Fleming is dedicated to Alexander Fleming and Williamina Fleming, not to Sandford Fleming.

Title/Given Name: 
Dr. Sir Sandford