In the 1830s German scientist Alexander von Humboldt approached London’s Royal Society advocating a network of observatories to measure variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and to identify links between it, the aurora, and weather changes. The British government became involved since facilities in their colonies could form a network girdling the globe, for example in Capetown, St. Helen and Tasmania. The Royal Artillery was tasked with establishing the facility in Canada.

Initially the Toronto instruments were placed near Fort York but magnetism from guns affected the results and a better site was sought. The new campus of the University of Toronto was chosen before it even opened to students. Regular observations began 1 January 1840 at the Fort, but moved to a primitive log cabin on the campus in September 1840. These represent the earliest continuous meteorological records in Canada.

Instruments sent to Toronto included magnetometers, survey instruments and meteorological instruments. Of these only a mercury barometer survives. Researchers measured the direction and intensity of magnetic fields, observed weather patterns, and made astronom Read More
In the 1830s German scientist Alexander von Humboldt approached London’s Royal Society advocating a network of observatories to measure variations in the Earth’s magnetic field and to identify links between it, the aurora, and weather changes. The British government became involved since facilities in their colonies could form a network girdling the globe, for example in Capetown, St. Helen and Tasmania. The Royal Artillery was tasked with establishing the facility in Canada.

Initially the Toronto instruments were placed near Fort York but magnetism from guns affected the results and a better site was sought. The new campus of the University of Toronto was chosen before it even opened to students. Regular observations began 1 January 1840 at the Fort, but moved to a primitive log cabin on the campus in September 1840. These represent the earliest continuous meteorological records in Canada.

Instruments sent to Toronto included magnetometers, survey instruments and meteorological instruments. Of these only a mercury barometer survives. Researchers measured the direction and intensity of magnetic fields, observed weather patterns, and made astronomical observations for time calibrations. The observatory team used extremely sensitive instruments that were made of completely non-magnetic materials, such as brass. Their observations helped expose the relationship between sunspots and irregular magnetic variations on Earth.

Intended to be a three-year project, the observatory was still functioning in 1850 when Upper Canada began to assume some of the costs. The colony’s government assumed financial responsibility but turned over the operation and administration to the University. With £2000 worth of new instruments, a permanent observatory was established in 1854/55 which was later to become headquarters of the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) founded under Univ. of Toronto professor, George Kingston.

The observatory dome, holding a 6-inch refractor from 1882-1984, provided the first facilities for the University’s Astronomy Department. In the 1880s the observatory participated in the world-wide observations on the transit of Venus and aided in Sir Sanford Fleming’s drive to standardize international time. By the 1890s electrification of Toronto’s street cars interfered with the delicate magnetic observations. The observatory’s equipment was disassembled in 1907.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Meteorological Observatory, Toronto

First Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory in Toronto, 1840-55

Unknown
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen
1840 - 1855
© 2008, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Fortin barometer

Measures air pressure using a mercury column. Newman´s Fortin-type barometer is the only surviving instrument from the first Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory. Canada Science and Technology Museum

John Newman, London, England
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen
1839
870512
© 2008, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Scale-reading telescope

Used to read scale of magnetometer from a distance to avoid disturbances. Université de Toronto

Manufacturer uncertain
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen
c. 1870
© 2008, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments. All Rights Reserved.


In the early 19th century, mariners were still at the mercy of weather. Telegraphs allowed warnings of storms to be passed from town to town in the 1830s and gradually an informal network of observers formed. Researchers began to discover some of the fundamental principles of meteorology, for example, the relation between winds and the boundary between high and low pressure areas. George Kingston (University of Toronto) proposed the establishment of a network of observers to provide weather information to mariners. The Meteorological Service (MSC) was founded in 1870 and has grown in importance for all segments of the population--fishermen, farmers, pilots, truckers and you.

Kingston was an inventive fellow who worked with Toronto instrument maker James Foster to design several new instruments. One, a long-shaft anemometer, determined and recorded wind speed and direction. The MSC’s staff maintained this innovative spirit and fifty years later John Patterson designed what has become the world standard anemometer.

In 1931 G.M.B. Dobson described an instrument to measure the atmospheric spectral lines created by ozone (O3) in the atmosphere. By the 1960s Read More
In the early 19th century, mariners were still at the mercy of weather. Telegraphs allowed warnings of storms to be passed from town to town in the 1830s and gradually an informal network of observers formed. Researchers began to discover some of the fundamental principles of meteorology, for example, the relation between winds and the boundary between high and low pressure areas. George Kingston (University of Toronto) proposed the establishment of a network of observers to provide weather information to mariners. The Meteorological Service (MSC) was founded in 1870 and has grown in importance for all segments of the population--fishermen, farmers, pilots, truckers and you.

Kingston was an inventive fellow who worked with Toronto instrument maker James Foster to design several new instruments. One, a long-shaft anemometer, determined and recorded wind speed and direction. The MSC’s staff maintained this innovative spirit and fifty years later John Patterson designed what has become the world standard anemometer.

In 1931 G.M.B. Dobson described an instrument to measure the atmospheric spectral lines created by ozone (O3) in the atmosphere. By the 1960s, advances in optical design and electronics suggested a better way. Research was undertaken by A.W. Brewer at the University of Toronto and the Brewer ozone spectrometer significantly improved on Dobson’s design by allowing virtually simultaneous observations of Sun and sky.

SED Systems of Saskatoon developed a travelling ozone spectrometer in 1979. This travelled throughout the world to obtain measurements for comparison with observations made with the Dobson units. Today there are approximately 140 Brewer units worldwide with 20 in Canada. MSC is the world calibration centre for all ozone-observing equipment and has three in continuous operation as the standards.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

long-shaft anemometer

Used to continuously display wind speed and direction in a remote room. Kingston´s long-shaft anemometer was used to measure the wind´s speed and direction. Canada Science and Technology Museum

Meteorological Service of Canada
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen

870508
© 2008, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Patterson´s three-cup anemometer

Function: To determine wind speed and direction and to send the data electronically to recording apparatus. Patterson´s three-cup anemometer has become the standard throughout the World since he developed it in the 1930s. Canada Science and Technology Museum

Meteorological Service of Canada
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen
c. Early 1930s
870501
© 2008, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Ozone Spectrometer

Function: Measures (O3) content in the upper atmosphere by comparing spectral lines in sunlight and in the sky. The prototype spectrophotometer developed by Brewer and others at the University of Toronto to measure ozone (O3) content in the upper atmosphere. Canada Science and Technology Museum

A.W. Brewer, University of Toronto
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen
1967 - 1973
20000003
© 2008, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Brewer Spectrometer

Function: Measures O3 content in the upper atmosphere by comparing spectral lines in sunlight and in the sky. The second generation Brewer spectrophotometer includes the measuring unit (top) and the data acquisition unit. The black extension of the spectrophotometer holds the mirror to reflect light from the Sun and daytime sky into the detector. Canada Science and Technology Museum

SED Systems Ltd, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program, Suzanne Board, Dr. Randall C. Brooks, Sylvie Toupin, Ana-Laura Baz, Jean-François Gauvin, Betsy Little, Paola Poletto, Dr. James Low, David Kasserra, Kathryn Rumbold, David Pantalony, Dr. Thierry Ruddel, Kim Svendsen
c. 1975
20000004
© 2008, Canada Science and Technology Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Identify and appreciate the way history and culture shape a society’s science and technology
  • Describe scientific and technological developments, past and present, and appreciate their impact on individuals and societies
  • Appreciate the contribution of Canadians to the field of meteorology on the global stage

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