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William Brydone Jack

William Brydone Jack (1819-1886) was UNB's first teacher of surveying. In 1840, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at what was then King's College (founded in 1785) and gave lectures in surveying as part of the mathematics curriculum.

Brydone Jack designed and built a small wooden observatory which became operational in 1851.

The plaque on the building reads:

First Astronomical Observatory in Canada

Built in 1851 at the instigation of William Brydone Jack, professor of mathematics, nautral philosophy and astronomy; President of the University of New Brunswick, 1861-85. Schooled in the traditions of the Scottish universities, he equipped the observatory with the best instrumenmts of the day. In collaboration with Harvard observatory he determined the longitude of Fredericton and other places in New Brunswick and corrected errors in the international boundary

It was in 1855, that Brydone Jack, together with Dr. J.B. Toldervy, determined the longitude of Fredericton using the exchange of telegraph signals with Harvard College Observatory. This was the first precisely determined longitude in Canada.

In the same year that UNB was created (1859), a special three-term undergraduate course in civil engineering and surveying was initiated. The first diploma in this special course was awarded to Henry George Clopper Ketchum in June 1862. Brydone Jack (UNB President 1861-1885), was appointed to the Board of Examiners in 1874 for the examination of candidates for admission to practice land surveying in New Brunswick.

Jack Kennedy, sometime professor of physics at UNB, wrote extensively on Brydone Jack's accomplishments in astronomy and land surveying including his efforts to build the observatory and the determination of longitude by electric telegraph.

Photos courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, Harriet Irving Library, and Media Services, UNB.

-- R.B.L.