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Session 1 - HAD I: North of the Border: The Development of Canadian Astronomy.
Oral session, Sunday, January 12
Harbour A,

[1.01] The Astronomical Work of Peter Fidler (1769-1822) and others employed by the Hudson's Bay Company

P. Broughton (Toronto, ON)

The Hudson's Bay Company, founded in 1670, controlled the vast watershed of Hudson Bay until 1869. Its principal interest in the fur trade required maps and surveys as well as observations of native people and their habits, native species and their habitat, weather and conditions affecting travel. Accurate astronomical observations in western Canada began in 1768 when William Wales and Joseph Dymond wintered at Fort Churchill on the western shore of Hudson Bay and determined the longitude of that place in preparation for the transit of Venus the following spring. As competition forced the Company to establish inland posts, an urgent need arose for better maps and so, on the recommendation of Wales, the Company hired its first surveyor, Philip Turnor in 1778. At Buckingham House, a prairie outpost of the Company, Turnor schooled David Thompson and Peter Fidler in the art of astronomical surveying during the summer of 1790. Fidler's notebook provides a fascinating look at the rigorous training he received. Over the next twenty years, Thompson and Fidler made definitive maps covering all of western Canada. To achieve this, they made hundreds of astronomical observations using meridian altitudes for latitude and using lunar distances as well as phenomena of Jupiter's satellites for longitude. Their extensive work will be summarized and used to assess the accuracy of their methods. In addition, hundreds of observations of the aurora, mainly recorded by Fidler as part of his meteorological journal, will be shown to illustrate a maximum frequency of occurrence about 1795 and 1805, corresponding to the times of maxima in solar activity.

Program listing for Sunday