As we continue to celebrate the Society’s 50th Anniversary, we are sharing articles from past issues of our membership magazine. In honour of the official opening of the David Dunlap Observatory, we look back to the November/December 2002 issue of Heritage on the Hill and this article by Elinor Humphreys Graham.
The existence of an observatory in our midst is positively dependent on three persons, namely Mrs. Jessie Donalda Dunlap, Dr. Clarence August Chant, and Dr. Reynold Kenneth Young. It stands today as a vital and living monument to them.
The City of Toronto and the University of Toronto needed a research centre for the oldest and most majestic of the sciences astronomy. Mrs. Jessie Dunlap was a very wealthy widow, living in Rosedale in 1926, when she received a copy of an article from The Star Weekly, written by Dr. C. A. Chant, professor at the University of Toronto and founder of its Department of Astronomy. Both Mr. and Mrs. Dunlap had long shared a deep interest in the science of Astronomy and when Dr. Chant asked if she might be interested in supporting his project – a research centre – she responded positively and enthusiastically. Needless to say, Dr. Chant was overjoyed.
Due to Mrs. Dunlap’s magnificent gift to the University of Toronto, she and Dr. Chant found the ideal site on a hill on the east side of Yonge Street, 15 miles north of the old city limits, now part of Richmond Hill. In due course the David Dunlap Observatory became a reality and was officially opened on May 31, 1935, by Mrs. Dunlap, and named in memory of her late husband, David. It was the culmination of nine years of hard work, and the lifelong dream of Dr. Chant, who had been on the staff of the University of Toronto since 1904, founded and became the first head of its Department of Astronomy and then founded the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
May 31st was chosen as opening day especially since it was the 70th birthday of Dr. Chant, and he was formally retiring, so became Director of the Observatory for one day only. Officially, Dr. R. K. Young, professor of astrophysics at the University of Toronto, followed Dr. Chant as Director on June 1st, 1935; in reality its first director. Dr. Young was born on a Binbrook, Ontario farm, on October 4th 1886, one of thirteen children born to Robert Young and Jean Bell. Reynold Young was very studious, excelled academically and graduated with honours and was a gold medalist from the University of Toronto.
With Dr. Chant he had led a Canadian party on an eclipse expedition to Australia, and afterwards joined Dr. Chant as Professor of Astronomy at the University of Toronto in 1924. Dr. Young obtained his PhD at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in southern California and held positions at Kansas Observatory and at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, thence to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, B.C. with its 72 inch telescope, the second largest in the world at that time, 1918.
Dr. Young’s contributions to the U. of T. are embodied and made manifest in the present David Dunlap Observatory. He had the necessary experience at major observatories for design, specifications, construction, instrumentation, installation, and testing of the 74 inch reflecting telescope and its dome, the
finest in the British Empire and second largest in the world at the time. The observatory administration building with its laboratory and shop equipment were his responsibility also. In his spare time between 1926 and 1928 he built a nineteen inch reflecting telescope which is still in use at the observatory. Dr. Young as director kept the large 74 inch reflector fully active during World War II in spite of a shortage of staff. He published 96 scientific papers, determined the radical velocities of 2,152 stars and the absolute magnitudes of over 1,100 stars. He worked on the sub-commission of the International Astronomical Union. He was a Fellow and life member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, serving as National President for two years, 1932 and 1933. He was a life member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the American Astronomical Society, an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1923, and in 1973 was made an Honourary Life Member, the first to receive this rare honour.
Dr. Young retired January 1st 1946 with the title of Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto, and Director Emeritus of the David Dunlap Observatory. He had married for the second time in September 1936, to Mrs. Amy Gertrude Phillips Graham, a resident of Richmond Hill, and widow of the late William Howard Graham and mother of four children, Philip, Marjorie, Wallace, and George.
Dr. and Mrs. Young continued to live in Richmond Hill, until 1964 when they moved to Cobourg where Mrs. Young passed over in 19 73, and Dr. Young in 1977. They are both resting in Richmond Hill Presbyterian Cemetery.
Due to his loyal dedication, disciplined devotion to duty, and unrivalled capabilities, Dr. Young was indispensable to Dr. Chant and the Department of Astronomy. The role that the University of Toronto was and is able to play in modem astronomy was determined by the way Dr. Reynold K. Young built and launched the David Dunlap Observatory 67 years ago in 1935.