Fonds MC7 - William Brydone Jack

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William Brydone Jack

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  • 1847-1885, [196?] (Creation)
    Jack, William Brydone

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1 cm of textual records

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(1817 - 1886)

Biographical history

William Brydone Jack (1817-1886) was born in Trailflatt the parish of Tinweld, Scotland, the son of Peter Jack, a stone mason and master builder, and Janet Bryden. When he graduated from the University of St. Andrews in 1840 with a M.A. in mathematics and natural sciences, he was offered two posts, chair of Physics at Manchester New College and professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at Kings College, Fredericton (later the University of New Brunswick). Because his friends thought he was too young for the post at Manchester, he accepted the post in Fredericton and remained there for 45 years.

Hailed as a leading Canadian astronomer, in 1851 he helped establish an astronomical observatory on the campus of King's College, being the first such observatory in British North America. It housed an achromatic telescope, purchased with £300 provided by the provincial government. In 1855, in collaboration with Fredericton physician Dr. J. B. Toldervy, he determined the exact longitude of Fredericton with reference to Boston. Later Jack and Toldervy determined the longitudes of other locations in the province with reference to Fredericton, submitting their findings to Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy, who subsequently disagreed with them.

He was keenly interested in surveying, and in the 1870s, helped the surveyor general of New Brunswick improve surveying standards. With Dr. James Robb, first professor of chemistry and natural history at King's, Jack also worked to improve the teaching of science at King's College.

He encouraged the introduction of a course in civil engineering and in 1861, following the conversion of King's to a secular college. He was named second president of the University of New Brunswick (1861-1885). In conjunction with Lieutenant Governor Sir Edmund Head, he worked to introduce more practical training in the sciences and arts into the college curriculum. As well, between 1872 and 1885 he served on the provincial Board of Education. William Brydone Jack died at Fredericton on 23 November 1886.

Jack married twice. By his first marriage, to Marion Ellen Peters in 1844, he had 4 daughters, Mary, Helen, Rose, Blanche and one son, Hurd. His second marriage, to Caroline Amelia Disbrow (1829-1910) of Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1859, produced 6 children: William Disbrow Brydone (b.1860), who became a doctor and married Alice Hicklin (b. 1865) of England in 1884; Mabel Amelia (b. 1863), who married L.D. Millidge in 1889 and lived in Saint John; Arthur Canby Brydone (b. 1864), a lawyer who married Vera Vaughn in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1889; Harold Bruce, who died in infancy 1866; Robert or Robin Brydone (1867-1899), who married Kate Millican in 1894 and died in Skagway, Alaska; and Ernest Edmund Brydone (b. 1871), who married Minnie Fisher (b.1872) in 1896. The second child of this marriage, Mabel Milldridge, and her husband had three children: Brydone DeBlois (b.1894), Marion DeBlois (b. 1890), and Cranston DeBlois (1892-1935).

The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1988
Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. IX
A.W. Trueman, Canada's University of New Brunswick

Custodial history

Information about the custody of these records prior to acquisition is incomplete.

Scope and content

This fonds consists of an account book of personal and family expenses, 1847-1885, belonging to Dr. William Brydone Jack. There are also photostatic copies of a letter from Dr. Jack to Benjamin R. Stevenson, Surveyor General of New Brunswick concerning measurement of the meridian line through Fredericton, 14 October 1874. There is also a copy of a certificate of appreciation from the University of New Brunswick on his retirement in 1885.

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Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Dr. W. A. Spray of the Mactaquac Historical Programme in 1968. The photostats are of unknown origin.


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  • English

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