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Terence Dickinson (1943-2023)

Dickinson was a well-known Canadian astronomer who authored numerous popular astronomy books, and served as editor for several astronomy periodicals.

Published onFeb 07, 2023
Terence Dickinson (1943-2023)
Figure 1

Photo credit: Susan Dickinson

Terence Dickinson, Canadian astronomer and author of numerous popular books on astronomy, passed away on Wednesday February 1, 2023 at age 79 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Dickinson’s interest in astronomy began when he was only five years old, when he saw a meteor streak across the sky. His professional career began in 1968 when he became a staff astronomer and teacher at the McLaughlin Planetarium of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In 1970, he became assistant director of the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, New York.

Terence served as the editor of the then new ASTRONOMY magazine in 1974 and 1975. From 1995 until 2016, he edited and co-owned SkyNews, Canada’s magazine of stargazing. He is perhaps best known in the amateur astronomy world as the author of the NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing The Universe, a book that has helped tens of thousands of people get started in the hobby of amateur astronomy. It has been in print through several editions for forty years.

Terence also authored many other popular books, including The Universe and Beyond, Hubble’s Universe, and The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, co-authored with Alan Dyer.

From 1981 until the mid-2000s, Terence wrote a weekly astronomy column for The Toronto Star newspaper, taking over the popular column from long-time author and Canadian astronomer Helen Sawyer Hogg. Another of Terence’s regular platforms for promoting astronomy was television, through his frequent appearances in the late 1990s and early 2000s on Canada’s Discovery Channel. He was also a regular commentator on CBC Radio’s weekly Quirks and Quarks science show.

Among his numerous awards are the New York Academy of Sciences’ Children’s Book of the Year (1988), the Royal Canadian Institute’s Sandford Fleming Medal (1992), Industry Canada’s Michael Smith Award for Public Promotion of Science (1993), and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Klumpke-Roberts Award (1996). He was the recipient of honorary degrees from Trent University and Queen’s University. In 1995, he was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to public understanding of astronomy.

In 1994 asteroid #5272 was officially named Dickinson in his honor by the International Astronomical Union.

Terence Dickinson's ability to explain the universe and simplify astronomical concepts in ways easily understood by the average reader has gained him a huge international audience. Many thousands of people have developed an interest in astronomy and the wonders of the universe because of his work.

His love for astronomy was infectious, as anyone who attended one of his wonderful lectures will attest. He once said, “I want to do what I’m doing for as long as I can. There’s just so much more to know and see, and I’m still excited as a kid about new discoveries. I’ll never run out of things to write about – I’ll just run out of time.”

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