Ray Thompson

(1923-2015) An accomplished observer and member of the Toronto Centre; recipient of the Chant Medal in 1967.

RAYMOND R. THOMPSON (1923-2015) remembers the marvellous views of the night sky he had from the darkened deck of a ship in mid-Atlantic when he was just fourteen. His father, with the British Admiralty, had been transferred to Bermuda, and the binoculars he had been given as a parting gift by friends in England gave young Ray his first taste of what lay beyond. Eventually Ray came to Toronto and took up his career as teacher and musician. Contact with the RASC and Jesse Ketchum rekindled his interest, and he was soon active in the Society. President of the Toronto Centre in 1963-64 and director of observations in 1965, Ray Thompson won the Chant Medal in 1967 for outstanding work both in instrumentation and observational astronomy, particularly solar, lunar and planetary sketching.

Thompson started his second observatory as a Centennial project in 1967 and equipped it with twin refractors - a 15-cm f/10 built by himself and a 20-cm f/15. These he found ideal not only for his solar system observations but also for visual photometry of variable stars. The smaller instrument was useful as a finder and for the brighter variables, while the larger instrument enabled him to reach 13th magnitude until his neighbourhood was drowned by streetlighting. He built a new two-storey observatory in 1971, housing the refractors under a 3.6-m dome and a 10-cm polar-axis telescope which was especially useful for the daily sunspot plot. A 25-cm Schmidt-Cassegrain 'scope replaced the refractors in 1991. Over a period of thirty years Thompson has reported nearly 10,000 visual estimates of variable stars to the AAVSO. In recent years, he has used a solid-state photometer coupled to a computer which does all the reductions and statistical analysis, and his work has been especially useful in a program to detect and confirm small variations in red giants.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

  • Night Fall: Luxor (poem), JRASC (November 1943)
  • Lunar Sketching, JRASC (October 1962)
  • The Sun's Selenographic Colongitude, JRASC (February 1965)
  • Chant Medal citation, JRASC (1967)
  • Astronomy Toronto, AT45 (Amateur Observatories), YouTube (November 1986)
  • Ken Chilton Prize citation, JRASC (1996)
  • Further Observations of HR 4483, A Small-Amplitude Red Variable Star, JRASC (August 1996)
  • Ray Thompson: A Master Observer, SkyNews (November 1999)
  • A Tribute to Ray Thompson Upon His "Retirement," AAVSO PEP Newsletter (July 2006)
  • In Memoriam, JRASC (October 2015)


Above: Ray Thompson's observatory was featured in this video.
Thompson, Ray R.