Cyril Wates

(?-1946) Engineer and telescope maker; Edmonton Centre member; Chant Medal 1943.

CYRIL G. WATES (? -1946) was a maintenance engineer with the Edmonton Municipal Automatic Telephone System. His exceptional mechanical ability led him into telescope-making in 1931 and over the next twelve years he built six telescopes and wrote many articles on the subject for Scientific American and the RASC Journal. His own observatory overlooking the Saskatchewan River, across the road from his home at 7718 Jasper Avenue, was the site of many Centre gatherings.

His largest undertaking was the construction of a 32-cm telescope, a project which took him five years to complete. He began the rough grinding of the Pyrex mirror by hand, but constructed a Hindle-type machine to do the figuring and polishing. This machine, which he described in the Journal, was made from all manner of spare parts from dental equipment to washing machines. When the telescope was finished, he presented it to the University of Alberta along with a 10-cm rich-field finder which he had also made himself. The University agreed to build an observatory and the opening ceremony, attended by the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta and astronomers McKellar and Pearce from DAO, took place on May 20, 1943. The observatory was named for Cyril Wates, and served the University well for years. Wates received the Chant medal for 1943.

Cyril Wates was frequently the main speaker at Centre meetings and in addition, from 1941-45, regularly gave short talks based on The Observer's Handbook. He sometimes amused his audience with humorous verses but he also wrote serious poetry and composed music. He served as President of the Centre in 1938 and in the same year was also President of the Alpine Club of Canada. Strongly attracted by the silent grandeur of the scenery, whether terrestrial or celestial, he delighted in showing others inspiring views of either.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

  • Obituary, JRASC (February 1946)
  • The Wates Telescope and the University of Alberta Observatory (with Plates VIII-X), JRASC (September 1943)
  • JRASC articles by Cyril Wates
  • An Amateur Astronomer’s Home-Made Telescope, Scientific American, 1935 (p.169)
Wates, Cyril