Ralph DeLury

(1881-1956) Dominion Observatory solar astronomer; Society President (1936-37).

Ralph Emerson DeLury (1881-1956), like his older brother, attended the University of Toronto where he was prominent in various organizations and athletics. An all-round student, he played football, basketball and hockey and was the cartoonist for the campus newspaper. He received his B.A. in 1903, M.A. in 1904, and his Ph.D. in 1907, his thesis topic being "The Rate of Oxidation in Arsenious Acid." During this period, he wrote a 444-page book, A General Method of Calculation in Kinetics. After a year at Princeton on a research scholarship he joined the staff of the Dominion Observatory, Ottawa, where he spent his entire career on solar investigations. One might suppose from this illustrious start, that Dr. DeLury was embarked on a brilliant career. In fact, much of his work was marked by controversy.

Ralph DeLury presented many papers to the Society, starting with two on convection as a factor in stellar variation in 1909 and continuing up to 1940; for six years, 1928-34, he wrote the "News and Comments" column in the Journal. In some of his papers he presented ideas on the association of sunspots with everything from agriculture to zoology. He was, however, not merely playing with statistics as many others before and since have tried. He believed that at sunspot maximum an increase in ultra-violet radiation from the faculae, or bright spots, would result in increased ionization of the Earth's atmosphere which would in turn lead to increased cloudiness and rainfall. These meteorological effects, he reasoned, would have an effect on crops and economics. The newspapers of course latched onto the sensational claims. But in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the Society elected Ralph DeLury Second Vice-President in 1932, which led to his Presidency in 1936-37. He had also served the Ottawa Centre as President in 1921-22.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)


Further Reading


DeLury, Ralph E.