Canada Defiles an Astronomical Treasure

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jul 6, 2008 in Science |

Charles Thomas Bolton

That man you see in the photograph above is an international treasure. Under that rejected humble facade is none other than Charles Thomas Bolton who will one day be seen as one of the great astronomers of all time. He was THE first man to discover a black hole:

“In 1972, Bolton made a discovery in astronomy that was so important it guaranteed him a place in the history books: he was the first astronomer to present irrefutable evidence of the existence of a black hole. The black hole in question was Cygnus X-1, which lies at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Bolton detected its presence by observing star HDE 226868 wobble as if it was orbiting around an invisible but massive companion. His calculations demonstrated that the companion could be nothing less than a black hole.”

So why is one of the best astronomers in the world — a grown man who is 65 years old — crying on the steps of his observatory? After 73 years of the observatory being open the University of Toronto sent Bolton an email informing him that he had 10 days to get get off the premises because the University in their “wisdom” had decided to close the David Dunlap Observatory:

Dunlap Observatory closing sparks anger, frustration

“In November, the university voted to close the observatory and sell it to the highest bidder, and redirect the money from the sale back into the school’s astronomy program. Yesterday it confirmed it has a “firm agreement” with a buyer and it’s looking to close the deal by month-end. It did not disclose the buyer or the price.”

The university used the excuse that the observatory was no longer useful due to light pollution, but this is a lie as the facility is perfectly useful long-term research programs and large survey programs where relatively few observations are taken of a large number of stars. But more shocking than the closure of the observatory is the poor way the university is treating Mr. Bolton. It’s heartbreaking to think that when you’re looking at that photo that they carrying out 37 years of his life’s work. The University of Toronto should be ashamed of their shoddy treatment of a man who is a real life hero.

I’ve spent my life wondering about the barbarians who sacked the library of Alexandria, I always imagined that it’s same primitive minded folks like the Taliban that destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Well what makes this case sad is that the man responsible for this move is David Naylor the 15th President of the University of Toronto who amongst his other honors is that he was a Rhodes Scholar. I’d love to know if Naylor has seen the photo Bolton crying on those steps and if so how he can he sleep at night knowing that he defiled an living astronomical treasure?

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