Northern Star: J.S. Plaskett

By R. Peter Broughton
With a foreword by James E. Hesser

© 2018

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.

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Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 600 pages
  • Dimensions: 9.4in x 1.4in x 9.3in
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SKU# SP004359

  • PUBLISHED JAN 2018

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

    ISBN 9781442630178
  • PUBLISHED JAN 2018

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

Quick Overview

Northern Star explores Plaskett’s unorthodox and fascinating life from his rural roots near Woodstock through his days as a technician at the University of Toronto to his initiation in astronomy at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa.

Northern Star: J.S. Plaskett

By R. Peter Broughton
With a foreword by James E. Hesser

© 2018

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.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 600 pages
  • Dimensions: 9.4in x 1.4in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    "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
  • Author Information

    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

    Foreword
    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
    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index