Northern Star: J.S. Plaskett
John Stanley Plaskett was Canada’s pre-eminent astronomer in the first half of the twentieth century. His legacy lives on in the observatory he founded in Victoria, British Columbia, and the reputation he built for Canada as a nation making vital contributions to basic science. Plaskett’s pioneering work with the most massive stars and his definitive determination of the rotation of the Milky Way Galaxy earned him international recognition of the highest order.
Northern Star explores Plaskett’s unorthodox and fascinating life from his rural roots near Woodstock, Ontario through his days as a technician at the University of Toronto to his initiation in astronomy at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa. His greatest achievements followed after he persuaded the government of Canada, in spite of the strictures of the First World War, to finance what was then the world’s largest operational telescope. Peter Broughton’s accessible and engaging prose illuminates Plaskett’s numerous achievements and the social, political, economic, and religious milieu surrounding them. This richly illustrated volume invites readers to understand the pull that Plaskett’s passions, personality, and motivations exerted on him during his lifetime.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 600 pages
- Dimensions: 9.4in x 1.4in x 9.3in
"The book’s great strength is the range and depth of Broughton’s research. So thorough it is that it is hard to imagine anyone unearthing any more significant information about Plaskett. Broughton fashions his judgements carefully; the evidence he presents makes a compelling case for Plaskett as a skilled observational astronomer and highly talented institution builder."
Robert W. Smith, University of Alberta
Journal for the History of Anatomy, vol 49:3
"The fact that Broughton was able to write an engaging narrative and produce a most valuable and profusely illustrated book in the history of twentieth century astronomy is a testament to his skills in this labour of love biography."
Dr. Clifford J. Cunningham, University of Southern Queensland
"This is a book that needed to be written. Its appeal may fall between the general public readership and that of active astronomers, but many passages bridge that gap, and it is evident that nothing has been omitted for those who crave detail and further reference. Northern Star will stand as a complete and thorough record of a remarkable Canadian, a definitive account of what he gave to the country and to the world of science."
BC Booklook, March 18 2018 (online)
"Plaskett’s legacy is covered nicely in this well-produced volume, and that, of course, includes his son, Harry, who became the Savilian Professor at Oxford. The first of the appendices lists his many publications; copious Notes follow – 90 pages of them – and a comprehensive Index concludes the book. A number of monochrome photos help bring the story to life."
The Observatory, December 2018
"John Stanley Plaskett was a prominent member of what can be regarded as the first generation of Canadian professional scientists and firmly established Canada as a major partner in international astronomical research. In this thoroughly researched biography, Peter Broughton has given us a scholarly and readable account of Plaskett’s life and work."
Alan H. Batten, F.R.S.C
"The publication of Peter Broughton's Northern Star: J.S. Plaskett, is a watershed event for the history of Canadian astronomy. Plaskett, founder of the still-vital Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, was the first Canadian astrophysicist whose quality and quantity of research and professional connections ensured his ability to walk on the world stage of the discipline. Broughton's scholarship is thorough, and he presents it in an attractively readable form. Of particular value is the setting of Plaskett's career and work firmly in their contemporary context, the author's mature evaluations of Plaskett's scientific achievements, and the reproduction of many rare and previously unpublished archival photographs evoking the research and social contexts of the first formative period of astrophysics in Canada."
R.A. Rosenfeld, Archivist, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
R. Peter Broughton was president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada from 1992 to 1994. His service and extensive writing on the history of astronomy led the International Astronomical Union to name a minor planet in his honour.
James E. Hesser authored or coauthored more than 250 scientific publications and was a pioneer in using the Hubble Space Telescope to establish the ages of the outermost star clusters related with the Milky Way Galaxy. He was the director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, serving from 1986 to 2013.
Table of contents
Preface , Acknowledgements, and Abbreviations
Part I - Preparing the Ground
Chapter 1 – Rural Roots (to 1890)
Chapter 2 – Toronto Responsibilities (1890-1903)
Chapter 3 – Ottawa Advancement (1903-07)
Part II - Budding Scientist
Chapter 4 – The Sun and the Stars (1906-11)
Chapter 5 – The Dream of an Upright Man (1911-13)
Chapter 6 – Transition (1913-17)
Part III - Career in Full Flower
Chapter 7 – This is the House that Jack Built (1917-21)
Chapter 8 – Challenges and Rewards (1921-23)
Chapter 9 – The Farthest Stars (1924-26)
Chapter 10 – Beyond the Stars (1927-30)
Chapter 11 – The Big Picture (1930-34)
Part IV - The Fruits of his Labour
Chapter 12 – Retirement (1934-41)
Chapter 13 – Regeneration (1942- )
Note to Appendices
Appendix A: Chronological listing of JSP’s published papers
Appendix B: Chronological listing of JSP’s talks
Subjects and Courses