Terence Dickinson | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Terence Dickinson

Terence (Terry) Dickinson, CM, astronomer, writer, editor (born 10 November 1943 in Toronto, ON; died 1 February 2023 in Napanee, ON). Dickinson was recognized as one of the leading astronomy writers in North America. He was the editor, and later co-owner, of SkyNews and the author of several books of astronomy, including the commercially successful publication NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe (1983). Dickinson also regularly appeared and shared information about astronomy on CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks and the Canadian Discovery Channel.

Photograph of Terence Dickinson, 30 November 2008.

Early Life and Career

Terry Dickinson’s interest in astronomy began when he was only five years old, when he saw a shooting star streak across the sky. While he did not receive academic training in astronomy, Dickinson pursued the subject and developed in-depth knowledge. He began his career as an astronomer at the McLaughlin Planetarium of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in 1968 after meeting Henry King, the planetarium’s director. In 1970, he began to work at the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, New York and by 1974 was the executive editor of Astronomy magazine. After returning to Canada in the late 1970s, he continued to write and edit articles about science, mostly about astronomy.

Career Highlights

In addition to writing a weekly astronomy column for the Toronto Star, Terry Dickinson wrote articles for many publications, including MacLean’s, Reader’s Digest, OMNI, Equinox and Canadian Geographic. Dickinson wrote 14 books on astronomy, often illustrated with his own photographs, for both children and adults. He co-authored some nine other books. He was the editor of SkyNews, Canada’s national astronomy magazine, which was founded by the National Museum of Science and Technology (now the Canada Science and Technology Museum) in 1989. In 1999, Dickinson became co-owner of the magazine with publisher Greg Keilty and associate publisher Colleen Moloney. Dickinson remained editor until the year after the magazine was sold to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2015.

Dickinson was also in demand as a speaker at conventions, academic institutions and professional societies. He was a regular guest expert on CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks and the Canadian Discovery Channel (see CBC/Radio-Canada).


Terry Dickinson's ability to explain the universe and simplify astronomical concepts in ways easily understood by the average reader earned him a huge international audience. Many thousands of people have developed an interest in astronomy and the wonders of the universe because of his work.

Dickinson helped establish the Lennox & Addington County Dark Sky Viewing Area, a dark sky reserve that opened to the public in 2012. (See also Greater Napanee; Ontario.) A plaque was installed in his honour at the viewing area in 2013.

Honours and Awards

In honour of Terry Dickinson, asteroid #5272 was officially named Dickinson by the International Astronomical Union in 1994. Dickinson received the news while on air with CBC Raido’s Quirks & Quarks (see CBC/Radio-Canada). In addition to this honour, Dickinson received the following awards:

  • Children’s Science Book Award, New York Academy of Sciences (1987)
  • Information Book Award, Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada (1989)
  • Sandford Fleming Medal, Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science (1992)
  • Michael Smith Award for Science Promotion, Industry Canada (1998)
  • Member, Order of Canada (1994)
  • Klumpke-Roberts Award, Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1996)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Trent University (2004)
  • County of Lennox & Addington Lifetime Achievement Award (2013)
  • Honorary Doctor of Science, Queen’s University (2019)

Further Reading

External Links