Joseph Pearce

(1893-1988) DAO astronomer. Society President (1940).

JOSEPH A. PEARCE (1893-1988) joined the RASC in 1916 while stationed at Rockliffe Camp, Ottawa. He had just returned, wounded, from the War. His brother, Dr. Leslie Pearce of Brantford, joined the Society at the same time but died of influenza just two years later. Once the war was over, Joe Pearce returned to the University of Toronto, completing his B.A. in 1920 and M.A. in 1922 before going to the Lick Observatory in California on a fellowship.

In 1924, Pearce accepted a position at the DAO in Victoria and was appointed Astronomer the following year when R.K. Young moved to Toronto. He and Mrs Pearce both joined the Victoria Centre in 1925 where he served as Recorder, Secretary, Vice-President and President (1928-29), and Honorary President (1932 and 1981-85). He was one of the originators of the Centre's "Summer Evenings with the Stars" program. He generously donated many of his own books to establish the Centre's library and many years later, in 1961, he similarly gave over 300 books to the newly-organized Department of Astronomy at the University of Victoria.

The radial velocity work for which Pearce is best known was carried out in collaboration with J.S. Plaskett and established for the first time in a thoroughly satisfactory manner the rotation of the Galaxy and hence its mass. He was elected President of the RSC in 1949-50, and received an honorary D.Sc. degree from the University of British Columbia in 1955. In 1988 an asteroid was named after him by the IAU. As a member of professional organizations such as the AAAS, the AAS, and the RSC, he travelled frequently to meetings and rarely missed an opportunity to address one or more Centres of the RASC en route. From 1934-40 he served the Society as Vice-President and President. The RASC presented him with the Service Award in 1962.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

Pearce, Joseph A.