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Astronomy

Sextant
This sextant, made by Troughton & Simms, London, dates from the mid-19th century.

The astronomy collection consists of around 200 artifacts, most of which were used for teaching and research at the University of Toronto Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the department’s main observatory, the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO). Formerly part of the Department of Physics, the Department of Astronomy (as it was then known) was founded as a separate department under Professor Clarence Augustus Chant in 1905. The Observatory, which boasted the second largest optical telescope in the world at its establishment, opened in Richmond Hill, Ontario in 1935, and was the Department’s home throughout much of the 20th century. When the observatory closed and the property sold by the university in 2009, the artifacts that were kept there were moved to storage at the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the downtown Toronto St George campus. The observatory is now a National Heritage Site. It is owned by the city of Richmond Hill and jointly run by the city and the RASC Toronto Centre.

Objects range from a collection of celestial globes used to teach undergraduate students to a small selection of 18th century antiques, including a number of pocket sundials, to artifacts associated closely with the David Dunlap Observatory, including both scientific apparatus and decorative components.

Other collections of interest include astronomical equipment designed and used during WWII for training pilots and others in astronomical navigation techniques, and some memorabilia and instruments connected with Toronto astronomers and their families, including a light table which was used by U of T astronomers Helen Sawyer Hogg and Christine Clement.

At the close of the David Dunlap Observatory in 2009, a number of items, including many locally constructed instruments, were acquired from Observatory by the Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. These objects can be found in the museum’s catalogue here.

Access: Interested researchers should apply to Lee Robbins, Head Librarian at the Astronomy & Astrophysics Library. This collection is not open to the public.