Origins of the Halifax Dockyard Observatory


The astronomy of place and time played a significant role in the history of the science in Canada during the colonial period. This was of particular importance in maritime centres, such as the major port of Halifax. One of the persistent mysteries of the history of late Georgian and Victorian astronomy in Canadian was the exact nature of the built infrastructure for the organized conduct of practical astronomy at the port of Halifax, the date of the facility's construction, and its exact location.

These questions have now been answered thanks to the work of Dr. Randall C. Brooks, and Joel H. Zemel, in their report Origins of the Halifax Dockyard Observatory (2017/2019), undertaken for the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Their research has confirmed the construction date of 1828/1829 arrived at earlier by Dr. Brooks, and established that the evidence for a date decades earlier during the War of 1812 is unreliable, and they have uncovered additional information on the observers, and their equipment.

Due to their generosity, we are delighted to be able to make their work available on

—R.A. Rosenfeld

Note: Detail of the sketch by Captain Michael Seymour (1845 June19) of HM Dockyard in Halifax, showing in the centre to the left of the tree the structure now identified as the transit house (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia).

Last modified: 
Friday, October 27, 2023 - 11:00pm