Saturday, December 17, 2016

Charles Smallwood, meteorologist and founder of the McGill Observatory


Born in Birmingham, England, in 1812, Charles Smallwood arrived in Canada in 1833 and was licensed to practice medicine in 1834. A few years later, around 1840, he established his residence at Saint-Martin in Isle-Jésus. In addition to practicing medicine, he had a strong interest for meteorology. In order to conduct experiments, Smallwood built a weather observatory on his property. It was a small wooden building equipped with several instruments, such as barometers, thermometers, a 7-inch telescope and rain and snow gauges. For example, he gathered data about the ozone, dew and evaporation, atmospheric electricity and bird migrations.


In 1856, Smallwood became the first professor of meteorology at the McGill University. In 1863, he moved his equipment from his observatory in Saint-Martin to a stone structure at the McGill University, thus founding the ''McGill Observatory''. The observatory stayed in the same building until 1962, and it is still in operation today in the Macdonald Physics Building.


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The Past Whispers
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