Sidney van den Bergh Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science

Canada's most respected astronomer

The Story

Sidney van den Bergh was fascinated with the vastness of space and wanted to become an astronomer as long as he could remember. He learned to read using books on astronomy. He also was interested in geology and archeology.

Sidney’s parents supported his interests in science and bought him books, a telescope, and a microscope. However, his father, Sidney James van den Bergh, a successful businessman, wanted him to choose a more practical career and keep astronomy as a hobby.

Young van den Bergh attended Leiden University, Netherlands, in 1947 – 48, and then went to Princeton University on a scholarship where he obtained an A.B. He continued his education in the USA and Germany.

Dr. van den Bergh’s first position was as an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio State University. He moved to Toronto in 1958 and spent the next 19 years teaching astronomy at the University of Toronto and working at the David Dunlap Observatory, which houses the largest optical telescope in Canada. His major research interests were the structure and evolution of galaxies, the extragalactic distance scale, supernovae, star clusters, and variable stars.

In 1977, Dr. van den Bergh was appointed Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia. In 1982 he became President and Chairman of the Board of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation in Hawaii.

Dr. van den Bergh retired as Director of the Observatory in 1986 and continued his studies as principal research officer. He has published more than 500 papers. The comet that he discovered in 1974 was named in his honour.



Canadian Encyclopedia

Hubble Heritage Project

“Reaching for the stars” in Canadian Geographic

“Sidney van den Bergh: Killam 1990 Laureate” In celebration of Canadian scientists : a decade of Killam laureates Ed. Kenney-Wallace, G.A., MacLeod, M.G., Stanton, R.G.

Image: National Research Council of Canada

Career ideas:

  • research scientist, physics
  • research scientist, electronics
  • research scientist, communications
  • research scientist, aerospace
  • research scientist, remote sensing
  • nuclear physicist
  • optics physicist
  • plasma physicist
  • solid state physicist
  • astrophysicist
  • cosmologist
  • experimental physicist

The Person

May 20, 1929
Wassenaar, Netherlands
British Columbia
Researcher Emeritus
Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, NRC
  • BA Princeton, 1950
  • MSc Ohio State University, 1952
  • Dr. rer. Nat, University of Goettingen, Germany, 1956
  • Officer of the Order of Canada, 1994
  • Killam Prize, 1990
  • Member of the Royal Society of London, 1988
  • First National Research Council President's Science Medal, 1988
Last Updated
September 17, 2015

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