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KINGSTON, GEORGE TEMPLEMAN, meteorologist, author, professor, and public servant; b. 5 Oct. 1816, son of Lucy Henry Kingston and Francis Sophia Rooke and brother of author William Henry Giles Kingston; m. in 1851 Henrietta Malone, and they had one son; d. 21 Jan. 1886 at Toronto, Ont.

George Templeman Kingston was born near Oporto (Porto), Portugal, where his father, an English wine merchant, periodically resided. At age 14, after an elementary schooling in England, he went into the Royal Navy as a midshipman and won a gold medal for mathematics at the naval college in Portsmouth. But at age 26, finding a seafaring life not suited to his constitution, he left the navy and became a student at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He graduated with honours in mathematics in 1846, taking a position among the wranglers, and was awarded an ma in 1849. After teaching at Eton College for some time, he came to Canada in 1852 to become the first principal of a nautical college in Quebec. When that school closed in May 1855 he began his association with the University of Toronto.

In 1839 the British Government had established a magnetic observatory at Toronto where meteorological observations were also taken. The observatory was operated by British military personnel, after 1842 under John Henry Lefroy, until 1853 when Professor John Bradford Cherriman* of the University of Toronto assumed control of it on behalf of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada. In May 1855 Cherriman was made professor of meteorology and director of the observatory and at the same time Kingston was appointed professor of natural philosophy at the University of Toronto. But before Kingston could take up his position, Cherriman, who was Kingston’s brother-in-law, somehow managed to obtain what he apparently considered the more desirable appointment for himself, and when Kingston arrived in Toronto in August he was forced to accept the now vacant position of professor of meteorology and director of the observatory. The combined offices brought Kingston a salary of £450, one-third payable by the university and two-thirds by the province.

During the decade prior to confederation, Kingston appears to have been occupied with administering the observatory and lecturing on meteorology at the university and at the local normal school. In 1858, with the cooperation of Egerton Ryerson, chief superintendent of education for Canada West, he instituted a programme of weather observing at some 12 grammar schools. The programme lasted less than two decades but it did provide a base for future climatological surveys. However, during the pre-confederation period in Canada observations and other scientific work were not considered to be of great value to the public and it was difficult to obtain the necessary funds to maintain the observatory. From 1855 to 1864 Kingston published the annual mean meteorological results at Toronto in the Canadian Journal; he also pursued other related interests, contributing many articles to the journal and serving as a member and twice as vice-president of the Canadian Institute which published it.

In 1867 ownership of the observatory passed to the dominion government but it continued to be administered by the University of Toronto. Kingston deplored this anomaly and noted that there were too few meteorological observers, that there was no true description of Canada’s climatology, and that existing agencies were inadequate to remedy the situation. National meteorological services were being organized in other countries, and after the United States Congress established a service early in 1870, Kingston managed to impress on Peter Mitchell*, minister of marine and fisheries, the advantages of a network of stations to observe and issue storm warnings. Consequently, on 1 May 1871, expenditures of $5,000 were approved for meteorological and climatological purposes within the Department of Marine and Fisheries over one year. This was the beginning of a national meteorological service, although there had been no act or order in council specifically creating it. Kingston immediately began to organize a small network of observing stations, adding locations in Kingston, Port Dover, and Port Stanley to Toronto, and in January 1872 the first exchange of meteorological data took place between Canada and the United States. Later in the same month Kingston, as acting superintendent, filed the “first report of the Meteorological Office of the Dominion of Canada” (after 31 Dec. 1876 the Meteorological Service).

At first, daily weather observations were obtained from the four stations in southern Ontario, but by late 1872 the network extended from Winnipeg to Halifax. As part of the exchange of Canadian and American data, the U.S. service gave storm warnings for Canada. Additional staff members, including Charles Carpmael*, Kingston’s eventual successor, were added; one of the trainees issued the first storm warning prepared in Canada in October 1876, and another, in 1877, the first general forecast. Storm warnings were the more important of the two then and were displayed to mariners and sailors by combinations of wicker baskets hung on poles at ports and harbours on the Great Lakes, the St Lawrence waterway, and the Atlantic coast. The weather predictions were telegraphed to 75 cities and towns in Canada each day and bulletins were then posted.

Suffering from ill health, Professor Kingston retired from his posts in 1880. Because of his role in promoting and organizing the national meteorological service Kingston could be called the “Father of Canadian Meteorology.”

Morley K. Thomas

A list of G. T. Kingston’s publications can be found in Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis.

Can., Atmospheric Environment Service (Downsview, Ont.), Letterbooks of the superintendent of the Meteorological Service, 1870–80. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1872, IV, no. 5, app. 13; 1873, IV, no. 8, app. 16; 1874, III, no.4, app.27; 1875, V, no.5, suppl.4; 1876, V, no.5, suppl.3; 1877, V, no.5, suppl.3; 1878, II, no.l, suppl.3; 1879, III, no.3, app.46; 1880, VI, no.9, app.34. Royal Meteorological Soc., Quarterly Journal (London), 13 (1887): 122–23. Dominion annual register, 1886. John Patterson, “A century of Canadian meteorology,” Royal Meteorological Soc., Quarterly Journal, 66 (1940), suppl.: 16–33. A. D. Thiessen, “The founding of the Toronto Magnetic Observatory and the Canadian Meteorological Service,” Royal Astronomical Soc. of Can., Journal (Toronto), 34 (1940): 308–48. M. K. Thomas, “A century of Canadian meteorology,” Can., Atmospheric Environment Service, Annual report of operations ([Toronto]), 1971–72: 1–20. Andrew Thomson, “Professor George T. Kingston, 1817–1886,” Canadian Meteorological Service, Monthly report ([Toronto]), April 1971: [1]–5.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Morley K. Thomas, “KINGSTON, GEORGE TEMPLEMAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 16, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/kingston_george_templeman_11E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/kingston_george_templeman_11E.html
Author of Article: Morley K. Thomas
Title of Article: KINGSTON, GEORGE TEMPLEMAN
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1982
Year of revision: 1982
Access Date: September 16, 2014