Simon Newcomb Award

Simon NewcombThe Simon Newcomb Award is intended to encourage members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to write on the topic of astronomy for the Society or the general public, and to recognize the best published works through an annual award. Any two Society members may submit nominations for the award. Nominations should be sent to the Awards Committee chair by December 31. Use the fillable form below.


The award is named in honour of the astronomer Simon Newcomb (1835-1909) who was born in Nova Scotia and later served for twenty years as Superintendent of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac Office at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington. For more detail see this article in Science magazine, W.W. Campbell's biographical memoir of Newcomb, and Newcomb's Reminiscenses. The award was created in 1978 by the National Council of the RASC on the initiative of the RASC Halifax Centre.

Who is Eligible?

Any member of the Society is eligible for the award. Nominations may be submitted by another member, a group of members, or an RASC Centre.

What Writing is Eligible?

An eligible entry should be a recently published piece of writing with an astronomical theme. This could be one of: a book or a portion of a book; an article in the Journal of the RASC, a Centre newsletter, or another RASC publication; an article in a commercially published magazine; and so on. A series of articles or a history of exemplary writing would also be considered eligible.

Judging Simon Newcomb Award

The Awards Committee will judge nominations according to several criteria, including: originality, literary merit, scientific accuracy, educational value, and promotion of the Society's objectives. The Committee is not bound to make an award in a given year if the nominated works do not meet a suitable combination of these criteria.

Submission of Nominations

Letters of nomination must include: (a) the name and address of the nominator; (b) the name, address, and RASC Centre affiliation of the nominee (if attached to a Centre); (c) the title(s) of the author's work(s) to be considered for distinction; (d) full publication details; and (e) a statement establishing the suitability of the author's writing.

The nominator may be requested to supply a good copy of the nominated work if it is not known to the members of the Awards Committee or not readily available.


The award is a plaque which will be presented at the General Assembly. A cash prize of $250 will be awarded to the recipient by the RASC.

History of this Award

The original rules were published in the National Newsletter (August 1978, L53) and a picture of the award was published on the front cover of the December 1978 NNL.

The rules were changed in 1998.

Up until 2011, the physical award was a trophy (see above), which was presented to the Newcomb Award winner at the General Assembly, to remain in the hands of the recipient until the following April. Due to natural wear and tear, the trophy has been retired, and is now kept among other RASC artifacts in the Society's National Archives. As can be seen from the image here, the trophy featured a miniature transit instrument in brass, a most fitting symbol of the great enterprise of positional astronomy pursued in Newcomb's day, the cumulative scientific results of which he used for his lifetime's work of refining astronomical constants. The trophy was researched and designed by Michael Edwards, and machined by Edwards, John MacNeill, and Dr. Randall Brooks, all of the the Halifax Centre, in 1978.

Award-Winning Articles

1994: Simultaneous Lunar Occulatations of Two Planets, Michael Watson. [JRASC]
1979: Astronomy at King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia, William Calnen.


Citations (PDF) are provided for those not published in JRASC.

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2001 Dan Falk Toronto JRASC
1999 Terence Dickinson Toronto  
1994 Michael Watson National Member JRASC
1987 Peter Jedicke London  
1986 David Chapman Halifax  
1985 Donald F. Trombino National Member  
1982 Phil Mozel Toronto  
1981 Christopher Rutkowski Winnipeg  
1979 William J. Calnen Halifax JRASC | Picture