William Harper

(1878-1940) DO and DAO astronomer; first winner of the RASC Gold Medal (1906); Society President (1928-29).

WILLIAM EDMUND HARPER (1878-1940) made outstanding contributions to the RASC. Other than C.A. Chant, no professional astronomer before him had been more devoted to the Society and to the popularization of his science. He gave over 100 radio talks, many of which were published in a number of newspapers across the country. Harper put all the royalties from these into the Southam Fund which eventually became an important source of capital for the purchase of the Society's own headquarters. He wrote over 80 papers for the Journal as well as a great many notes, reviews, seminar abstracts and texts of his radio talks. Harper served on the Councils of Ottawa and of Victoria Centres and spoke not only at meetings of these Centres but also in Vancouver, Edmonton and Hamilton. He was President of Victoria in 1922 and national President in 1928-29.

He grew up near Owen Sound, Ontario, attended the University of Toronto and, on graduation in 1906, was the first winner of the RASC Gold Medal. He immediately joined the staff of the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa and in 1919 moved to the DAO in Victoria where he subsequently became Director. During his lifetime, he was credited with computing orbits for more spectroscopic binaries than any other astronomer in the world and was also noted for calibrating the absolute luminosities of thousands of stars of spectral type A. He was a councillor of the AAS and a Fellow of the RSC.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

Harper, William E.