Fonds 1743 - John Satterly fonds

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Reference code

UTA 1743


John Satterly fonds


  • 18-- - 1964 [predominant 1886-1963] (Creation)

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3.76 m of textual and graphic records (31 boxes)

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Name of creator


Biographical history

John Satterly, A.R.Sc., D.Sc., M.A. F.R.S.C was one of the best known and respected figures in Canadian Physics. Born in Ashburton, Devon, England on November 29, 1879, he acquired a strong background in science and mathematics while at Ashburton Grammar School and went on to spend three years (1898-1901) at the Royal College of Science in Kensington. There he studied under Tilden, Reicher, Perry and Judd. From 1901-1903 he acted as Demonstrator at the Royal College of Science and then went on to Cambridge University as Tutor in Physics. At the same time, he worked under Professor J. J. Thompson at the Cavendish Laboratory. His research led to a number of publications on the radioactivity of the atmosphere and its variation with the weather; and on the radioactivity of natural waters and soils. He obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees from Cambridge and a D.Sc. from the University of London.

Satterly became acquainted with a number of Canadian Physicists and was asked to take up a teaching position at the University of Toronto in 1912 where he remained for the next 38 years until his retirement on June 20, 1950. He taught courses on Properties of Matter, Mechanics and Heat to first and third year students. Many of his first year lectures became renowned for their showmanship, especially that which was devoted to Liquid Air. Satterly maintained his interest and research in the area of heat and mechanics and surface tension and viscosity even after his retirement in 1950. A room was reserved for him in the McLennan Laboratory and in the decade following his retirement he could be found there nearly every day working on problems which continued to interest him. Post 1950 inserts into his lecture notes bear witness to the devotion Satterly had in updating and advancing his own interests in physics. The 1950s saw a considerable increase in the number of research papers published by Satterly and it was not until three months before his death that the frequency of his publications ceased. John Satterly died on October 1, 1963, aged 83.

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This fonds contains the personal and professional papers documenting the life and accomplishments of physicist John Satterly. Included is personal and professional correspondence, family documents, material related to Devon, England and its history; photoprints; course notes and related material such as certificates and diplomas from Satterly's days as a student; lecture notes; laboratory experiments; problem sets, examinations; textbooks; research notes; and publications which document his career as physicist at the University of Toronto.

Few administrative records of the Department of Physics from the first half of the twentieth century are available in the University Archives. As a result, this fonds provides documentation not only the life of the renowned physicist, but also of the teaching of Physics at the University of Toronto from 1912 to 1950 as well. The personal papers of other physicists already in the Archives compliment the Satterly fonds.

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Finding aids

  • Attached finding aid covers accessions B1972-0026, B1976-0024, B1981-0026, and B1993-0048.
  • Accession B1973-0009 is described in Series 7 - Drawings

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