A Look Back at the Founding of the Kingston Centre
by Leo Enright
Taken from the 1997 Kingston General Assembly Handbook | Futher Reading
On the occasion of the Kingston Centre's hosting its first General Assembly of the RASC, it
would be appropriate to reflect briefly on the founding of this Centre. The Kingston Centre fits
somewhere in the "middle" of the Society, when one considers the history of the 23 Centres that
now make up the national organization. It is not an "elder or senior" member of the group, such
as we have with the Centres in London, Ottawa and Winnipeg, for example, all of which have
been proud parts of our national organization for more than 75 years; nor is it an "adolescent or
youth" member of the group, such as we have with the fine additions that we welcomed to the
organization in the 1980's and 1990's, the Centres in Thunder Bay and the Okanagan being two
examples that could be mentioned.
With our Kingston Centre this year celebrating its 36th anniversary, it is one of the "right
in the middle" groups within our Society. At the age of 36 years, a person is often considered to
have lived long enough to be entering the "maturer years", perhaps to be confident of his/her
position "in the scheme of things", but if living in a contemporary society, to be aware also of the
potential for a "mid-life crisis"! If it is a group of which we are speaking, perhaps the group has
become confident enough (or, is the term "foolhardy"?) to undertake the task of providing a
convention for about two dozen other such groups from all parts of a vast nation. Having
retained a few memories of the "youth years" of our Centre, I know that those who were
members at that time would never have considered the hosting of such an event as even remotely
possible. However, aging has also brought some confidence based on real growth and maturity.
Aging has changed the makeup and focus of the Centre from what it was in its early years, 25-35
years ago, when growth within the group was slow and tentative.
Dr. A.V. Douglas
As those who are familiar with Peter Broughton's book on the history of the Society,
Looking Up, will perhaps know,
there was interest in astronomy in the Kingston area for many
years prior to the founding of the Centre in 1961. In fact, the Kingston Observatory, the first in
Ontario, had opened in 1855, and Astronomy had been taught at Queen's University as early as
1863. In the early years of the century Queen's professors and others from the area had become
members of the Society. In 1939, Dr. A. Vibert Douglas, who for a number of years had been
active in the Montreal Centre, moved to Queen's University. She was at the time Second
Vice-President of the Society and in 1943-44 would become National President. It was very largely
due to the "ground-breaking" work of Dr. Allie Vibert Douglas that the Kingston Centre was
formed in 1961 as the 16th Centre of the Society. Because of her dedication and that of a number
of individuals, the Centre, after its modest beginnings and relatively slow growth over its first
decade, flourished in time and has since become one of the very active Centres of the Society.
To remind us of the historic events relating to our Centre's beginnings, I have located in
the Society's archives a number of interesting documents from the year 1961. The first is the
report of the organizational meeting held in January 1961 to explore the possibility of setting up a
Centre in Kingston. With it is the letter subsequently sent to the National Office.
Organizational Meeting, Kingston Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
About 20 students and members of Queen's University Faculty met in room 221 of Ellis
Hall on Thursday January 19, 1961 at 7:30pm. The chair was taken by Dr. A. Vibert Douglas,
Professor of Astronomy, and a past-president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, who
outlined the history and purpose of the RASC.
After presenting a description of the Handbook and the Journal of the Society and mentioning
the annual fee as $5 per year with a special rate of $3 per year for students, the chairman called on
Dr. George Harrower to explain the facilities of the Observatory. He suggested that members
might be invited to observe with the large and the smaller telescopes one evening a week with the
guidance of a graduate student in Astronomy. From time to time public lectures might be
After most of those present indicated their desire to form such a Centre and join the Society, the
chairman gave an illustrated address on Telescopes and the Universe They Reveal. After the
lecture, 9 of those present paid the membership fee and a tentative announcement was made of an
informal observational meeting to be held in the Observatory on Thursday January 26. The
meeting then adjourned.
- Reflections on 20 Years as an RASC-KC Member
Regulus, 2009 Jun, pp. 6-7,9.
- Looking Back 25 Years Part I: The Kingston Centre in Early 1977
Regulus, 2002 Jul, pp. 2-5.
- Looking Back 25 Years Part II: The Kingston Centre in the Summer of 1977
Regulus, 2002 Sep, pp. 4-7.
- Looking Back 25 Years Part III: The Kingston Centre in the Sep. and Oct. 1977
Regulus, 2002 Nov, pp. 2-5.
- Looking Back 25 Years Part IV: Kingston Centre Events from Nov'77 - Feb'78
Regulus, 2003 Jan, pp. 2-4.
- The Early History of the RASC Kingston Centre
Regulus, 2001 Mar-Apr, page 3.
- The History of the RASC Kingston Centre - Part 2
Regulus, 2001 May-Jun, page 4.
- KC History in Looking Up: A History of the RASC, pp. 261-4 (1.71 MB).
- Looking Back on Twenty-Five Years of Activity
Regulus, 1986 Jan-Feb, pp. 1-2.
- Looking Back on Twenty-Five Years of Activity [Part 2]
Regulus, 1986 Mar-Apr, pp. 1-2.
- Looking Back on Twenty-Five Years of Activity [Part 3]
Regulus, 1986 May-Jun, pp. 1-2.
- A Resurgent Kingston Centre
JRASC, Vol.75 (1981) pp.324-5.
- Astronomy at Queen's University
JRASC, Vol.52 (1958) pp.82-6.
- Obituary - Douglas, Alice-Vibert - 1894-1988
JRASC, Vol.82 (1988) pp.309-11.