Darby Coats

(1892-1973) A Montreal/Winnipeg/Calgary Centre member with an interest in radio; received the Society's Service Award in 1968.

DOUGLAS RICHARD PROCTOR (DARBY) COATS (1892-1973) was a prominent member of three RASC Centres during his lifetime. His interest in astronomy was probably inspired by the achievements of his famous great-uncle, R.A. Proctor. Coats joined Montreal Centre as a charter member in 1918, but went to Winnipeg in the '20s where he lived for nearly 40 years before moving to Calgary. Wherever he went his enthusiasm for astronomy was infectious.

Darby Coats was one of Canada's first radio broadcasters, starting with Montreal's experimental station, XWA. For many years, his name was a household word across the Prairies as the popular "Uncle Peter" host of a children's radio program; his Dickens' "Christmas Carol" was an annual tradition.

Coats was President of the Winnipeg Centre in 1934-5, 1947-8 and 1952-4. His speeches on a great variety of topics, show that he was frequently a pioneer - "Teaching the Stars by Radio" (1929), "Atmosphere and Radio" (1931) and "The Sun and Radio Reception" (1933). In 1930 he played phonograph records of H.H. Turner and Oliver Lodge for the Centre. He was a skilled amateur telescope maker in the early 1930s, and was still speaking on this subject in 1965. Coats was a ship's radio operator in the First World War, surviving two sinkings, and was a Flying Officer in the Second World War. He observed the total solar eclipse of 1954 from the air.

He donated some books and charts by R.A. Proctor to the national Library in 1972 and wrote an unpublished history of radio communication in Canada.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Douglas R. P. (Darby) Coats passed away at Calgary, Alberta, on July 7, 1973 at the age of 81 years. Darby Coats had been a member of the Society for over half a century, and during this period he made outstanding contributions both to the R.A.S.C. and to Canadian society. He will be remembered by many for his important contributions to the early development of radio communication in Canada and for his education broadcasts in astronomy in the 1930’s. The R.A.S.C. will remember him especially for his many public lectures in astronomy and his skill and enthusiasm as a telescope maker.

NNL, October 1973


Further Reading

  • Stellagraphs: Star Pictures by Radio, JRASC (February 1930)
  • Service Award Citation 1968, MP3 Audio (02:26, 1.82MB, read by Norman Green)


Coats, D.R.P. Darby