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.