Better know a Canadian functionary: the Dominion Geodesist

Land surveying in Canada falls under the purview of the Surveyor-General of Canada, as I’ve said before. But surveying depends on a lot of basic measurements and calculations of measurements of the Earth to take into account when surveying, things like differing sea levels or regional variances in the Earth’s gravitational pull or its magnetic field.

The branch of applied mathematics that involve changes in the Earth’s attributes is called geodesy, or geodetics. In 1909, the Dominion Observatory was tasked with beginning a survey of geodetic information in Canada, with the Dominion Astronomer, W.F. King, as Superintendent of the Geodetic Survey of Canada. In 1916 the Survey was separated from the Observatory, and in 1923 the Superintendent was changed to the Director of the Geodetic Survey of Canada, and changed again in 1936 to the Dominion Geodesist. This title was used until 1995, when the Geodetic Survey of Canada’s name was changed to the Canadian Geodetic Survey, and the Dominion Geodesist became the Director of the Canadian Geodetic Survey.

The SGSCs/DGSCs/Dominion Geodesists/DCGSs of Canada have been:

William Frederick King CMG, 1909-16.
Noel J. Ogilvie, 1917-46.
John Leslie Rannie, 1947-51.
J.E.R. Ross, 1951-57.
J.E. Lilly, 1957-67.
L.A. Gale, 1967-74.
L.J. O’Brien, 1974-86.
George Babbage, 1987-89.
David Boal, 1989-95.
Mark Corey, 1995-96 (acting)
Cyril Penton, 1996-97 (acting)
Denis Hains (1st time), 1997-2001.
Robert Laframboise, 2001-04.
Jean Robert Duval, 2004-05 (acting)
Stuart Salter, 2005-07 (acting)
Denis Hains (2nd time), 2007-14.
Pierre Héroux, 2014-now (acting)

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One comment

  1. C. Klatt

    Your state that “This title was used until 1995, when the Geodetic Survey of Canada’s name was changed to the Canadian Geodetic Survey, and the Dominion Geodesist became the Director of the Canadian Geodetic Survey.”

    The name Geodetic Survey of Canada was abbreviated GSC, which caused confusion with the Geological Survey of Canada, and hence a change was needed. As I understand it, the Geodetic Survey of Canada was changed to the “Geodetic Survey Division” at some point prior to 1997, quite possibly 1995. It was in 2013 that the title was changed again to “Canadian Geodetic Survey”, a name better suited to an organization reliant on extensive international collaboration. The name “Geodetic Survey Division” is also correct, as it remains a division dedicated to geodetic surveys.

    I have little factual information regarding why the usage of the Dominion Geodesist title ended. It has certainly not been used for the last 15 years at least, but I do not believe it was ever formally discontinued. As noted, laws still refer to this person. There is some thought of using this title again, in the manner of the title Dominion Hydrographer.

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