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Building Name: William Brydone Jack Observatory

Brydone-Jack Observatory. UA PC 9 no. 38 (6).

Other Names: The Observatory, Observatory Art Centre

Civic Address: 5 Bailey Dr.

Sod Turning: N/A

Cornerstone Laying: N/A

Opened for Use: 19 March 1851

Official Opening: [ca.1851]

Architect: Dr. William Brydone Jack

Named for: Dr. William Brydone Jack, Professor of mathematics, physics and astronomy, President of UNB from 1861-1885. An astronomer and surveyor, Brydone Jack convinced the college council to buy a telescope and build and observatory.

Renovations/changes/additions: Solid concrete tower 8’ in-ground and reaching the second story was erected to mount telescope without vibrations affecting it (spring-summer 1899); refurbished in 1984 by physics professor Merrill Edwards.


Plaque Inscription: First Astronomical Observatory in Canada Built in 1851 at the instigation of William Brydone Jack, Professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Astronomy; President of the University of New Brunswick, 1861-85. Schooled in the traditions of the Scottish universities, he equipped the observatory with the best instruments of the day. In collaboration with Harvard Observatory he determined the longitude of Fredericton and other places in New Brunswick, and corrected errors in the international boundary.

Notes: The first astronomical observatory in Canada, it was officially made a National Historic Site 10 May 1955. The bronze plaque was presented by Dr. A.G. Bailey on behalf of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and unveiled by Dr. C. McN. Steeves (UNB 1905). Astronomy classes were held here in the 1800s. In fall 1941 the Observatory was turned into an art centre available to the student body and the community in general, while in the 1950s it served as a faculty club. From 1967 to 1984 the Observatory was occupied by the literary magazine The Fiddlehead. In the mid-1980s Dr. Merrill Edwards turned the building into a museum, displaying several 19th century instruments used to observe stars and measure land.


  • King’s College Council 1829-, 408.
  • Leroux, John. Building A University: The Architecture of UNB. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2010, p. 29, 31.
  • Plaque Inscription: University of New Brunswick Public Relations Department Photograph Collection; Series 2; Sub-series 3; File 721; Item 24.
  • Senate Minutes (UA RG 40), Book 5 (1927-1943), p. 227.
  • Steeves Scrapbooks Misc. 1785-, 56.
  • UA Case 123; Section 3, Box 1; Brydone Jack Observatory.

© UNB Archives & Special Collections, 2014