Charles Todd (astronomer)

Charles Todd (astronomer)

Sir Charles Todd KCMG (7 July 1826 – 29 January 1910) worked at the Royal Greenwich Observatory 1841-1847 and the Cambridge University observatory from 1847-1854. He then worked on telegraphy and undersea cables until engaged by the government of South Australia as the colony's superintendent of telegraphs and government astronomer.


Early life and career

Todd was son of grocer Griffith Todd[1] and Mary Parker,[2] was born at Islington, London, and was educated at Greenwich.

In December 1841 he entered the service of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, under Sir George Biddell Airy and in 1846 was one of the earliest observers of the planet Neptune. He was appointed assistant astronomer at the Cambridge Observatory in 1847, and in May 1854 was placed in charge of the galvanic department at Greenwich.

In February 1855, he accepted the positions of superintendent of telegraphs and government astronomer to South Australia.[3][4]

Superintendent of telegraphs

Todd, along with his 18 year-old wife Alice Gillam Bell[1][5] (after whom Alice Springs is named), arrived in Adelaide on 5 November 1855. They were accompanied by Todd's assistant, 24 year-old Edward Cracknell and his wife. (Cracknell subsequently became superintendent of telegraphs in New South Wales). On his arrival Todd found that his department was a very small one without a single telegraph line. The first line was opened in February 1856, and in June of that year he recommended that a line between Adelaide and Melbourne should be constructed.

He personally rode over much of the country through which the line would have to pass. Todd, and his counterpart in Victoria, proceeded to link the two colonies' telegraph systems near Mount Gambier in July 1858.[3]

Transcontinental line

In 1859 he conceived the idea of the transcontinental line from Adelaide to Darwin. Most of the country in between except for the explorations of Charles Sturt and others was unknown, and it was many years before Todd could convince the South Australian government of the practicability of the scheme.

In January 1863 Todd addressed the Adelaide Philosophical Society about the possibility of building telegraph routes that would link to an overseas cable. In 1868 the direct line between Adelaide and Sydney was completed and was used to determine the 141st meridian, the boundary line between South Australia and Victoria. Todd's calculations showed it to be 2¼ miles farther east than had previously been determined.

This led to the long-drawn-out dispute between the two colonies. By 1870 it had been decided that the transcontinental line should be constructed from Port Augusta in the south to Port Darwin in the north, though the other colonies declined to share in the cost. The southern and northern sections of the line were let by contract, and the 1000 miles in between was constructed by the department.[3]

The contractor at the northern end threw up his contract and Todd had to go to the north himself and finish it. Everything had to be sent by sea and then carted, but he met each difficulty as it arose, and overcame it successfully. The line was completed on 22 August 1872, but the cable to Darwin had broken and communication with England was not effected until 21 October.

Todd had been given the position of postmaster-general in 1870, and henceforth ruled as a benevolent autocrat thoroughly trusted by his staff and the ministers in charge of his department.[3]

Later career

His next great work was a line of about 1000 miles to Eucla, establishing communication between Adelaide and Perth. In 1885 he attended the international telegraphic conference at Berlin. He continued to control his department with ability, and when the colonies were federated in 1901 it was found that, in spite of its large area and sparse population, South Australia was the only one whose post and telegraphic department was carried on at a profit. Todd continued in office as deputy-postmaster-general until 1905.[3]

In 1886 Todd travelled to Great Britain, where he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Meteorological Society and of the Society of Electrical Engineers. Todd continued in his duties to posts and telegraphs in South Australia, until the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia took over all such services on 1 March 1901 and Todd became a federal public servant at the age of 75. He retired in December 1906, having been over 51 years in the service of the South Australian and Commonwealth governments.[3]

Astronomical work

Though so much of his time was taken up by the duties of the postal department, Todd did not neglect his work as government astronomer. Using the Adelaide Observatory, completed in 1860 and which was thoroughly equipped with astronomical and meteorological instruments and he contributed valuable observations to the scientific world on the transits of Venus in 1874 and 1882, the cloudy haze over Jupiter in 1876, the parallax of Mars in 1878, and on other occasions.

He took much interest in meteorology and enlisted his army of postal officials as meteorological observers. He selected the site of the new observatory for Perth in 1895 and advised on the building and instruments to be obtained. He was the author of numerous papers on scientific subjects, many of which were printed in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.[3]

Death and legacy

Todd died at his summer home, Semaphore, near Adelaide, on 29 January 1910, and was buried at North Road Cemetery, Adelaide, on 31 January. The Sir Charles Todd Building at the University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes Campus is named after him.[6] The Astronomical Society of South Australia have also named the observatory that houses their 20 inch Jubilee Telescope, the Sir Charles Todd Observatory.[3]

His daughter Gwendoline married the physicist William Henry Bragg and was mother of William Lawrence Bragg, both of whom shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915.[4]


  1. ^ a b H. P. Hollis, 'Todd, Sir Charles (1826–1910)', rev. K. T. Livingston, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  2. ^ Source Citation: Place: Islington, London, Eng; Collection: Dr. William's Library; Nonconformist Registers; Date Range: 1815 - 1832; Film Number: 815926
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Serle, Percival (1949). "Todd, Charles". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 7 October 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Symes, G. W. (1976). "Todd, Sir Charles (1826 - 1910)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 7 October 2008. 
  5. ^ The Singing Line, Alice Thompson, Doubleday 1999, ISBN 978-0385490597 Written by his wife's Great Great Granddaughter who retraced his route across Australia in the 1990s
  6. ^ "25th Anniversary of the Sir Charles Todd Building (SCT)". University of South Australia. 27 October 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2006. 

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charles Todd — may refer to: Caroline and Charles Todd, American mystery novelists Charles Burr Todd (born 1849), American historian Charles Haukes Todd, Chief Commissioner of the British Crown Colony of Burma, 1887–1890 Charles Lafayette Todd (born 1911),… …   Wikipedia

  • Todd (surname) — Todd is a surname meaning Fox in Gaelic, and may refer to*Albert E. Todd, Canadian mayor *Albert M. Todd, US Representative from the state of Michigan *Alexander R. Todd, Baron Todd, Nobel laureate in chemistry *Andy Todd, English football player …   Wikipedia

  • Todd — I. /tɒd/ (say tod) noun Sir Charles, 1826–1910, Australian astronomer, born in England; government astronomer of SA from 1855 and postmaster general 1870–1905; responsible for construction of the Overland Telegraph Line. Charles Todd worked at… …  

  • Charles Algernon Parsons — Born 13 June 1854 London, England, United Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • TODD, Sir Charles (1826-1910) — postmaster general and government astronomer, South Australia son of G. Todd, was born at Islington, London, on 7 July 1826, and was educated at Greenwich. In December 1841 he entered the service of the royal observatory, Greenwich, under Sir… …   Dictionary of Australian Biography

  • Robert Todd Lincoln — Infobox US Cabinet official name=Robert Todd Lincoln order=35th title=United States Secretary of War term start=March 5, 1881 term end=March 4, 1885 president=James Garfield (March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881) Chester A. Arthur (1881 1885)… …   Wikipedia

  • Marie-Charles Damoiseau — Damoiseau redirects here. For the lunar crater, see Damoiseau (crater). Baron Marie Charles Théodore de Damoiseau de Montfort (April 6, 1768 in Besançon. – August 6, 1846) was a French astronomer. Damoiseau left France during the French… …   Wikipedia

  • Кембриджская обсерватория — Купол с 91 см рефлектором Оригинал названия Cambridge Observatory Тип астрономическая обсерватория …   Википедия

  • Пертская обсерватория — Старое здание Пе …   Википедия

  • RUSSELL, Henry Chamberlain (1836-1907) — astronomer son of the Hon. Bourn Russell, M.L.C., was born at West Maitland, New South Wales, on 17 March 1836. He was educated at West Maitland grammar school and the university of Sydney, where he took his B.A. degree in 1859. He joined the… …   Dictionary of Australian Biography

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”