ESQUIMALT HISTORY: Arthur McCurdy looked to the stars

Esquimalt pioneer helped establish the Gonzalez Hill Observatory

  • Mar. 26, 2014 5:00 p.m.

Once situated at the corner of Head Street and Esquimalt Road, “Thoburn” was the home of Arthur Williams McCurdy and his family.

Arthur was the father of  Douglas McCurdy, who is credited with making the first flight of a powered air machine in Canada. On Feb. 23, 1909, Douglas piloted the Silver Dart for Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck, N.S. Considered the father of Canadian aviation, Douglas declared in 1917 that flying machines would come into commercial use at the close of the First World War.

Douglas stayed in Eastern Canada visiting family whenever possible. Meanwhile, Arthur, a life-long friend of Graham Bell, took up residence in Esquimalt, becoming known as a photographer, astronomer, writer and inventor.

His many achievements included the invention of a system for automatic development of photographic films and plates, which led to the Eastman Kodak Company introducing the “Kodak” developing machine in 1902. He was very active in community affairs.

In 1913, as president of the Natural History Society of B.C., Arthur strongly promoted establishment of the Gonzalez Hill Observatory, to record weather, astronomical and seismic readings. As vice-president of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, he and astronomer Dr. John Plaskett (also an Esquimalt resident), lobbied Ottawa for the construction of an astronomical facility on Vancouver Island.

In 1915, construction of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Little Saanich Mountain commenced and it opened in 1918. He was also the driving force behind the new Federal Graving Dock on Admirals Road.

He was also active in politics becoming the Liberal representative for Esquimalt in 1916, winning by only two votes. He resigned however over alleged irregularities in the soldier’s vote, opening the door for his Conservative opponent Robert Pooley to take the seat.

Arthur McCurdy died in Washington, DC in 1923.

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria council looks to self-impose carbon tax on staff airfare

A new carbon pricing fee would put additional funds into the city’s Climate Action Reserve

United Way celebrates volunteers, contributors in Greater Victoria area

$4.7 million was raised in 2018 thanks to the work of hundreds of people

Police charge 27-year-old man with weapons offences after Langford shooting

Justin Lemmen was arrested shortly after the shooting after crashing into a truck

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

Sidney loses prominent businesswoman to cancer

Sandy Bayton was a risk-taker but always had ‘a sound business plan’

VIDEO: Police dog in Oregon struck by 200 porcupine quills during pursuit

The German shepherd had to be sedated and was in treatment for more than two hours

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Island Cup set for East Sooke on May 3-5

Off-road racing event expected to attract over 50 racers

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read