On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 3/5. Justification: I knew enough to treat my subject adequately within the limited scope I set myself, but did not know enough to be able to widen my scope beyond my chosen theme of practical civics, as would be required in the case of an ambitious, full-scale, obituary.
1. Prof. Tom Bolton in Scientific and Civic Service
A leading Canadian observational astrophysicist, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Prof. C.T. (Tom) Bolton, born in the USA in 1943, died a few days before 2021 February 5. I belive he died alone, in his home near Ontario's David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P). When I received the news, on February 7, the coroner had not yet determined a date of death. I imagine that something like February 1 or February 2 or February 3 is close to whatever official finding will in due course get made.
I will leave it to more qualified writers to discuss Prof. Bolton's work, both on high-velocity hot stars (the "OB runaways") and on his identification of the first stellar-mass black hole candidate.
I am not competent to write anything at all on the OB runaway-star work.
Concerning black holes, it suffices here to remark, briefly, that Prof. Bolton put the DDO 1.88-metre telescope to successful use. His spectrogram plates of the ninth-magnitude star HDE 226868 built up part of the case (with another part contributed independently, by Webster and Murdin in the UK) for the hypothesis that the HDE 226868 binary-companion X-ray source, Cyg X-1, is a hot accretion disk girdling (not a mere neutron star, but more radically) a black hole.
This was the first stellar-mass black hole candidate known to science. When I checked with an appropriate specialist, perhaps around 2018, only around thirty other such subsequent candidates had been identified. Here, then, is one of the five or ten principal observational results in 20th-century astrophysics.
Prof. Bolton's achievement came through hands-on labour and deep thinking. It came despite the modest size (in international terms, from the 1970s onward) of what was at the time, and still is, the largest telescope in Canada.
While others have written in a pessimistic vein about the problem of light pollution at DDO, the facts are these: (a) The light pollution has been rather steady, rather than suffering a severe rise, since the 1980s, in other words since the ten or fifteen years following Prof. Bolton's spectroscopy. (b) With a liquid-nitrogen-cooled digital camera, as opposed to the chemical-photography plate technology available in the early 1970s to Prof. Bolton, it was routine for us in the DDO of 2008 to take good spectrograms of stars much fainter than the ninth-magnitude HDE 226868. We could push down, with acceptable signal-to-noise ratios, to perhaps magnitude 11 or magnitude 12, or still fainter.
In my earlier days with Prof. Bolton, from 2006 November, our conversations turned on my observing duties for him at the 1.88-metre telescope, and on my related daytime duties of one-dimensional spectrogram extraction for him, via the IRAF software suite, from the digital spectrograph-camera files.
I admired the name he bestowed on the high-grade Linux workstation which housed our endless IRAF work. Some years before I became Prof. Bolton's research assistant, and surely without any notable knowledge of Estonian astronomy, he had designated his imposing machine struve.astro.utoronto.ca. His choice for that "Fully Qualified Domain Name" was a salute to Otto Struve (1897-1963), a USA-based Russian-emigré great-grandson of a Baltic-German authority remembered here in Estonia as a principal luminary of the Tartu Observatory, namely the binary-systems filar micrometrist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve (1793-1864). The salute was in its turn an indication of what I prized in Prof. Bolton, a dedication to observationally grounded physical insight. Otto Struve (and indeed in an indirect sense even his ancestor, the tsarist binary-systems pioneer Friedrich Georg Wilhlem) is a contributor to the physical analysis that transforms mere astronomy into the duly high, duly severe, discipline of astrophysics.
For a while stars, and also occasionally mildly scandalous retellings of old dome gossip - I nowadays treasure Prof. Bolton's story of the misfortune which befell stellar astronomer "PQR", of Slavic-outside-European-Union extraction at McDonald Observatory in Texas - were the staples of such conversation as pressure from our respective DDO duties made occasionally possible for us. (It was a good story. Prof. Bolton told it well, with a good Hollywood-Slavic intonation. The temperamental "PQR" was on one particular night specially truculent, and complained in the Texan dark to a night assistant or some such, "I am zee greatest astronomer in zee VÖRLD." At this point he took a step backward in the gloom, to underscore his superiority, and with disastrous consequences fell from quite a height off a platform. As Prof. Bolton told me the story, PQR subsequently judged it appropriate to sue the McDonald administration.)
With, however, the 2007 September 10 announcement by the University of Toronto that the David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) would be sold on the open market, a new side of my boss emerged. Some people have a seemingly innate affinity for marathon running, or again for dance, or again for mathematics, or again for sculpting. As the DDO&P conservation crisis unfolded, from that September Monday morning onward, it became increasingly clear that Prof. Bolton had an affinity for civics.
This is a thing not so commonly encountered even in the ranks of eminent professional politicians. In all my life of peregrination and incident, I have met only a few people with this virtue. There was, for instance, the so-serious lad, aged perhaps ten, on the train, in the summer of 1974 near Munich. His dad, he told me, was an official of some weight at the United Nations. We discussed public affairs in English, on a rather statistical basis, I think standing uncomfortably in the so-crowded second-class corridor, for perhaps a half hour. It was as though the whole weight of the troubled planet rested already on his shoulders, as it surely rested on the shoulders of his distinguished dad. - What can have become of that boy? He is likely to be at late-career stage now, with grey hair and grandchildren. Is he, like his father before him, with the United Nations? Is he, alternatively, an Ambassador, or perhaps a First Secretary or Second Secretary, in some London or Washington or Paris embassy, representing in ever-so-excellent English whatever significant nation may be his ancestral homeland? Or did his innate talent somehow get smothered in adolescence, as talent can be where mentors and tutors prove unequal to their grave responsibilities?
Before I can develop Prof. Bolton's civic side in detail, I must digress - supplying, to those of my readers who may desire them, pointers to briefing materials on what might now be termed "the 2007-2018 DDO&P Defence Crisis".
2. Essentials of the 2007-2018 DDO&P Defence Crisis
What I here call the "Crisis" seems in fact to have been the weightiest Canadian heritage-conservation case of its time. I offer this assessment with some confidence, having glanced more than once at what other alarming things were on Canadian heritage-conservation desks in those eleven years. There were various individual buildings of note - the subsequently rescued "Normal College" in the Nova Scotian town in which I was born, and where my exiled father was serving in a agronomic civil-service capacity, a historical exhibition hall somewhere out West, remains of diminishing Canadian church life. In the province of Québec, an entire monastery or convent faced possible demolition. A village streetscape, I am fairly sure on some small Lake Ontario island, was in similar danger. Nevertheless, it seemed that nothing at that time could quite equal the case of 77 hectares of urban greenspace, perhaps half of it under forest cover, housing one of Canada's three internationally significant observatories, and constituting an ensemble which under more visionary municipal, provincial, and federal guidance might by 2015 or 2020 or 2025 have hoped to attain inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In the end, the Crisis turned out badly, with all buildings but the 1970s-era gatehouse conserved, and yet with research spectroscopy at the 1.88-metre telescope indefinitely suspended. The 1.88-metre was now put to the humblest of uses, fitted with a mere eyepiece, as appropriate for public outreach. Of the 77 hectares, 32 were ceded to property developer "Corsica", in 2015 renamed "DG Group". The latter name surely signifies a flagship for the commercially prominent De Gasperis family, whose collaborators on DDO&P subdivision development included the equally prominent Muzzo family. (It should perhaps be noted here, in the interest of moral clarity and to prevent speculation by the excitable, that the Marc Muzzo who was a director of Corsica during the Crisis is not the much-discussed convict Marco Muzzo, granted full parole on 2021 February 9, but his paternal uncle. I have no knowledge of any criminal allegations against the senior Muzzo. - I did make a feeble effort at investigating the De Gasperis family, mindful of such things as the local Mafia, reputedly anchored not in Sicily but in the 'Ndrangheta grouping of Calabria. My one semi-inside source, in a short chat, led me to think that circumstances do not point in anything like an 'Ndrangheta direction, or in any other criminal direction, and indeed point rather in the direction of moral, duly Catholic, probity.) Those wishing to see what the Corsica destruction of forest looked like can view footage, taken by some drone operator not known to me, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQuHx-7QAKw (YouTube upload of 2015 May 13, by YouTube user "Beygin Media", under the title "Fallen trees - Richmond Hill aerial of Dunlap Observatory Hill home development"). Those seeking an impression of the subdivision that has replaced the forest might visit https://myobservatoryhill.ca/ or http://www.aspenridgehomes.com/new-homes/Richmond-Hill/observatory-hill.
The temporal demarcation of the Crisis is easy. It started, as already noted, on the morning of the Monday which was 2007 September 10. That was the morning a press release from the University of Toronto, announcing an intention to sell, landed in the e-mail inboxes of DDO workers. The three Dunlap grandchildren had evidently at last caved in, the language of Jessie Donalda Dunlap's 1932 Deed of Indenture, barring sale of the so-generously donated facility, notwithstanding. And I suspect none will dispute my dating of the Crisis end, as the afternoon of the Saturday which was 2018 June 9.
On that particular Saturday, previous provisional arrangements for public education or "public outreach" at DDO, under the auspices of the pro-am astronomy-education specialists of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC; http://www.rasc.ca/) were formally replaced by a programme of public outreach under proper municipal auspices, involving both RASC and the DDO Defenders (DDOD; http://ddod.ca/). The Mayor spoke, other municipal dignitaries, as I think I recall, spoke; I presume DDOD spoke well; I vividly recall RASC speaking, with a fine command of facts, of the history of DDO in Canadian astrophysics; the citizen-engineering YLab group mounted instructive displays, and offered a friendly welcome, in the DDO basement laboratory area; and people in the big crowd shook hands in a spirit of sincerity. My impressions of that Saturday, with an analysis of its positive conservationist significance, are available at http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-ddo-conflict-2007-09-10-to-2018-06.html.
Further materials on the 2007-2018 Crisis are available by clicking on the right-margin "DDO&P conservation case" hyperlink at http://toomaskarmo.blogspot.com/. Many of the blogspot postings under that link, reflecting detailed week-to-week work of Mayor and Council, will be of interest primarily to specialists in municipal affairs. At least two, however, might be useful to a wider audience:
- https://toomaskarmo.blogspot.com/2016/04/?m=0 ("Essay on Sorrow - Its Anatomy and Its Remedies", from 2016 April 26)
- https://toomaskarmo.blogspot.com/2016/05/islands-in-time-of-civilizational.html?m=0 ("Part C" of a multi-part "Islands in a Time of Civilizational Decline" essay, from 2016 May 16)
Not under that hyperlink, but also relevant, is the following:
- https://toomaskarmo.blogspot.com/2016/05/reupload-part-d-islands-in-time-of_23.html?m=0 ("Part D" of the multi-part essay, from 2016 May 23 ; this sombre effort describes an all-too-possible future, looming if civic leaders, overwhelmed by Ontario's growing social, economic, and environmental challenges, fail to plan the long-term development of DDO)
For full clarity, and to forestall adverse speculations within some of my readership, it is advisable to conclude this briefing with bare-bones points about DDOD:
- DDOD, founded late in 2007, was taken over, de facto if not at first de jure, by political aspirant Ms Karen Cilevitz in the spring of 2008.
- Ms Cilevitz and DDOD played a fully constructive, in other words a fully conservation-supportive, conservationist role until at least 2010, as detailed at http://karen-vs-toomas-blog.ca/20140218T035440Z____blogpost/NNNN____20140218T035440Z____blogpost__main.html.
- Ms Cilevitz had during this period the fully appropriate approval and support not only of me as an administratively and scientifically junior figure but (what is significant, and moreover speaks to her good side) of Prof. Bolton. Additionally, she had a constructive relationship with the principal conservationists in the Crisis, Prof. Bolton's staunch friends (and equally my staunch friends) the Richmond Hill Naturalists (https://www.rhnaturalists.ca/).
- The key 2011 DDOD decision to support subdivision development on 32 of the 77 hectares, thereby undercutting (perhaps fatally, perhaps not fatally) the potential federal-government DDO&P World Heritage List case, is to be laid more at the door of Ms Cilevitz than of other, still-active, DDOD personalities, at that time administratively subordinate to her within DDOD.
- The key movers in this 2011 disaster were in any case not DDOD but the developer and the municipality, as the de facto principal parties in closed-door negotiations at the then still-functioning Ontario Municipal Board. DDOD participated in the trap which was closed-doors negotiation through Ms Cilevitz's error in judgement, and had only a minor influence on the outcome of the protacted parleys - I suspect not much beyond the rescuing, and the relocation within the DDO&P remnant, of the little 1930s DDO "Pump House".
- The current Karen Cilevitz criminal case, frightening though it may prove today, as her trial date of 2021 April 1 approaches, has to the best of my limited knowledge no connection with the DDO&P conservation file. As we monitor her evolving case, we do well to remind ourselves that her two charges notwithstanding (fraud over 5000 CAD, breach of trust by public officer), everyone is in law innocent unless and until the court issues a finding of guilt. I also herewith reiterate my various calls over the years, at blogspot and elsewhere, for a reconciliation between Karen and myself, even while herewith refraining from comment on the terms of her and my 2014 out-of-court settlement. (It was not I who sued her, but she who sued me.)
3. Prof. Bolton in the 2007-2018 DDO&P Defence Crisis
Part of what comes to mind in the specific DDO&P civic context of Prof. Bolton is, inevitably, suffering.
I recall his ejection, in 2008 July, from the Administration Building of the distinguished facility to which he had in a broad range of scientific and administrative capacities devoted much of his distinguished career: he was in tears, and if I recall accurately sitting, like the Observatory outcast he had become, by some cardboard boxes of items from his office. And yet I had not previously found him inclined to displays of lachrymose emotion. I recall, as a further cruel twist of this knife - eminently useful to us on the conservationist side, in our coldly militant, and fully necessary, ruthlessness, but nevertheless cruel - the to-us-unexpected National Post photography of Prof. Bolton at the doorstep. It was in these loud terms that our communal unhappiness got communicated not to the Greater Toronto Area alone, but to pretty much every Canadian newsstand.
From the same troubled month, quite likely from the same surreal day, I recall Prof. Bolton listening attentively near the Administration Building doorstep when I vented civic emotion in operatic mode, opening the dome catwalk door to the daytime sky and delivering appropriate commentary from that vast hemispherical reverberation chamber. I had for some months steeled myself for the worst by secreting in the telescope control room, and on suitable dome occasions practicing, the Dies irae. It was therefore (as I also recall in the "Islands in a Time of Civilizational Decline" essay, Part C, as cited above) easy enough for me to use the reverberation to amplify my already-strong tenor, so that the grieving scientist could hear also, even stationed, as he was, some tens of metres away. Dies irae! Dies illa! Solvet saec'lum in favilla ... ("Day of anger, that Day! It will dissolve the world into ash," and so on and so on, for nineteen pitiless stanzas which outdo even the Finlandia hymn's powerful "Oi Suomi, katso, sinun päivas' koittaa").
Recall offers also, however, happier moments from Prof. Bolton's civic engagement.
There were Prof. Bolton's contributions as a key witness, at the hearings of the Conservation Review Board (CRB) in 2009 (where we obtained a broadly favourable verdict) and at the Ontario Municipal Board in 2012 (where our verdict was astonishingly adverse). He spoke clearly, without superfluities, to the point, evidently unshaken by the efforts of the developer's counsel. His serenity under fire must have been due chiefly to the innate civic affinity which is the principal theme of this present obituary notice. Surely also helpful at CRB was the sage advice from someone on our side, from within the ranks of the consistently conservationist Richmond Hill Naturalists. Someone (not me) from that grouping had said to him, wisely, "Tom, just go there and enjoy yourself." And so he in a way did, even while under the dreaded "Cross", when the opposing advocate can throw any subtle curve-ball question, and within tribunal rules even any unintentionally or intentionally upsetting question, at you.
Further, many hundreds will recall with gratitude Prof. Bolton's braving winter weather to speak, with a troubling cold and well scarved, to the podium microphone in our big 2008 protest meeting on the grounds of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, in downtown Toronto, across the street from the main University campus. This was the day on which we delivered a conservationist petition with several thousand signatures, in its original to the Legislative Assembly via our Member of Legislative Assembly, and in photocopy to "Vice-President, Business Affairs" Catherine Riggall at the University. The conservationists do not seem to have preserved a YouTube record of those particular podium remarks. Something of their flavour, however, can be inferred from a surviving YouTube record of other podium work, in which Prof. Bolton, at the steps of the DDO Administration Building, addresses a crowd of perhaps fifty or one hundred or two hundred (perhaps not on that occasion, as I now think, significantly over one hundred). He can be seen speaking with passion in check, as required of the results-oriented civic activist, and yet arguing (as likewise required) without compromise, all his pertinent points duly marshalled, with little or no padding, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7acKj-DB2Ak. (This it the YouTube upload of 2008 February 10, by former DDO Telescope Operator Jim Thomson, under YouTube username "jrthomson1", under the title "David Dunlap Observatory sale protest".)
And I recall the hope which he infused into the immediate DDO family in the initial days of the Crisis. A meeting was hastily convened in his Administration Building office. Perhaps half a dozen of us were present. The atmosphere was electrifying, perhaps more than in any other small meeting I have attended. It was clear that we would fight with all the peaceful and legal means at our disposal; there was no self-pity, no grandstanding, and as I now recall it not even any discernible pessimism.
Above all, there is a thing from Prof. Bolton which antedated the 2007-2018 DDO&P Defence Crisis by a couple of decades, and which - as I will shortly explain - serves now as his best, as his most concretely operational, civic contribution. One might now term it his most fitting civic memorial.
4. By-law 63-95 as a Bolton DDO&P Defence Legacy
Various things will have to be done if the 45-hectare DDO&P remnant, and DDO within it, are to be adequately protected over the coming years. Some of them are to an encouraging extent now being done.
The municipality, having been complicit in greenspace destruction, is now redeeming itself with a duly heavy investment in restoration of the DDO domes and masonry (to, it seems, correct heritage-conservation standards).
Although there is an ever-present danger of DDO&P degenerating into an astronomically themed Disney World, DDOD under its current executive is duly aware of the need to start up a programme of scientific research, and has already made some steps in this so-necessary direction of "citizen science". I like to think that this DDOD initiative will help pave the way for eventual parallel efforts by DDOD's public-outreach co-worker, RASC.
Additionally, we may hope that, as the passions of the 2007-through-2018 period cool, it will be increasingly evident both to Ottawa and to the provincial government that an observatory as major as DDO must be put to substantive use in university teaching, notably in teaching at the graduate-school level (where students are standardly offered a practical apprenticeship in publication-quality research).
Here in Estonia, our principal national facility, the dark-sky campus of Tartu Observatory, has since 2018 been run not as the old Soviet-occupation "autonomous Institute", but as a unit administratively within Tartu University. (Tõravere operates a 1.5-metre spectroscopy telescope, a half-metre manually controlled photometry telescope, and a smaller roboticized photometry telescope.) The upshot of this new arrangement is that Tartu University, as an institution which in the global rankings figures modestly enough, coming in a bit below Nova Scotia's internationally respected Dalhousie University, is nevertheless able to offer its students a practical research-apprenticeship experience superior to what is currently on local offer at the three graduate-level astronomy programmes in the Greater Toronto Area (the programmes, namely, at McMaster University in Hamilton, York University at the very edge of the City of Toronto, and the University of Toronto). Happy though such a situation may be for Estonia, it puts Canada, as a notably wealthy and powerful nation, into an unfavourable light. As a student in Tartu, you can be exposed to professional spectroscopy, with 1.5 metres of aperture. As an M.Sc. or Ph.D. student in one or another of the three Greater Toronto Area programmes, by contrast, you must either travel outside Ontario or make do with a downtown scope, in a small (rooftop-class) dome. There is just a metre of aperture at York University, in the context of a recent laudable heavy investment, and less than that at McMaster and the University of Toronto. If I recall accurately, the University of Toronto pair of downtown rooftope-dome scopes offer apertures well below even 0.4 metres. An instrument with an aperture of 0.5 metres, in other words one-third of the aperture at Tõravere, will harvest from a given target in each second one-ninth the number of photons which Tõravere harvests. I make these points in sorrow, not as an indulgence in Estonian boasting, but as a call to Canadian action.
As the 2007-2018 passions cool, Canada must, then, work toward an arrangement in which the 45-hectare DDO&P remnant and the DDO buildings continue under their present municipal ownership, and in which the present correctly conceived DDOD-and-RASC public outreach continues, but in which research-grade spectroscopy gets revived, under the operational and budgetary support of perhaps two, perhaps all three, of the pertinent local graduate-school programmes. We may hope that RASC and DDOD can assist in the necessary discussions.
Prof. Bolton has left a tool for facilitating this research-apprenticeship task, in the form of light-pollution municipal by-law 63-95. Details are offered by DDOD by way of a hyperlink, within the Bolton obituary notice at http://ddod.ca/, to the municipal document https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/shared-content/resources/documents/924-1050.pdf.
Although it was his home municipality of Richmond Hill that enacted 63-95, it was Prof. Bolton himself, with few or no precedents anywhere in the international ensemble of municipalities to guide him, who did the scientific thinking and the civic explaining. Let by-law 63-95, then, or some appropriate updating of it, continue to underpin the integrity of DDO, as little by little within the DDO&P remnant the DDO scientific mission revives.