Allie Vibert Douglas: astronomer and pioneering teacher of astrophysics

Milky Way Galaxy on clear dark night sky

Allie Vibert Douglas,OC, MBE, and LLD’75, was an astronomer and a pioneer in the teaching of astrophysics.

She came to Queen’s in 1939 and was the university’s dean of women for the next 20 years. She taught physics until her retirement in 1964.

She served as president of the Royal Astronomical Society [1943-1945], as the first Canadian President of the International Federation of University Women [1947-1950], and as the Canadian representative at the 1954 UNESCO conference in Montevideo.

In 1967, she was named one of 10 “Women of the Century” by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Her research interests included spectroscopic absolute magnitudes of stars and the Stark effect in stellar atmospheres.

Dr. Douglas published both scholarly and popular articles on astronomy, sharing her delight in learning and in the exploration of the universe with a wide audience.

After the old campus observatory was demolished, in 1946, to make way for McLaughlin Hall, Dr. Douglas led the charge to rebuild the observatory atop Ellis Hall, its current location.

Following Dr. Douglas’s death in 1988, Asteroid 3269 was renamed Vibert-Douglas. In 2003, a patera, or crater, on the planet Venus was also named after her.

Members of the public can explore the wonders of the universe at monthly open houses at the Queen’s Observatory

Throughout the ages intellectual progress has been due to three attributes of mankind – a deeply implanted, insatiable curiosity; a far-reaching, unrestrainable, unfetterable imagination; and an undaunted faith that there is order in the universe, an underlying harmony in nature….

You cannot solve the riddles of the stars without invoking the aid of the atom, nor can you fully comprehend the atom without the aid of the tars.

On the uplifting wings of imagination the astrophysicist roams the universe from atom to atom, from star to star, from star to atom, from atom to star.

Impelled by curiosity regarding the natural universe, encouraged by evidences for his faith in the reality of cosmic harmony, he presses on and on – a sweet and fitting thing it is to toil for Truth.

From atoms to stars” – Allie Vibert Douglas, 1929

Prefer the offline issue?

The Queen's Alumni Review is the quarterly magazine for Queen's University alumni. Compelling stories and photos make it a must-read for all who love Queen's.

Download Winter 2016