Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

The Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory, a Brief History

Brief History of The Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory of Western University, Canada

from the original history by D.F. Gray

Located on the campus, this facility is used extensively for undergraduate laboratories and for the 'Public Night' and 'Exploring the Stars' programs.

It currently houses three telescopes on the same mounting: the original 25.4 cm refractor and small Schmidt camera as well as 30 cm reflector. When it was built by the Perkin-Elmer Corporation of New York, the glass objective lens of the 25.4 cm refracting telescope was the largest ever to have been poured in the western hemisphere. Heretofore the glass of large North American refractors had always come from France or England. It should also be noted that when the famous Alvin Clark and Sons telescope makers of the U.S.A. closed their doors, their manufacturing facility continued to make equipment for Perkin-Elmer, who are in this day and age most well known for having made the mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope.

On Friday, October 25th, 1940, a bright sunny day, this observatory and its 25-centimeter refractor were dedicated in a ceremony held in front of the new building. The observatory was presented by Mrs. Frances Amelia Labatt Cronyn in memory of her husband (Hume Blake Cronyn) who had considerable interest in science even though he worked in the financial world as general manager of the Huron & Erie Savings and Loan Company (later to become the Canada Trust Company), and president of the Mutual Life Insurance Company. Elected in 1917 as a Member of Parliament, he helped establish the National Research Institute of which he remained a member until his death in 1933. This remarkable gift to Western cost $40,000, a considerable sum in those days. The telescope itself cost $7,500.

A.T. Little, Esquire, Chairman of the Board of Governors, accepted the gift on behalf of the university. Remarks and greetings were given by Professor H.R. Kingston (UWO host department: Mathematics & Astronomy), C.A. Chant (Toronto), and S.A. Mitchell (Virginia). Officiating were Canon Q. Warner (Rector), Colonel H. Cockshutt (Chancellor), and W. Sherwood Fox (President). Commissioning the instrument was R.H. Cronyn,the eldest son.

And if you are a videophile you will want to know that the Hume Cronyn we enjoy as an actor, the one who married Jessica Tandy in 1942, is the fourth child of Hume Blake Cronyn.

The telescopes of The Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory

Photo by Dale Armstrong, R.A.S.C. London Centre