A great lady of Canadian astronomy honoured: A crater will be named after her on Venus.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has decided to name a crater on the surface of Venus in honour of a famous Canadian astronomer, Allie Vibert-Douglas.

Born in Montréal in 1894, Allie Vibert-Douglas begins her studies in mathematic and physics at McGill University. But, as the intensity of World War I increases, she interrupts her studies to work in the London War Office as a statistician. In 1918, at the age of 23, she is awarded the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her work. After she returns to Montréal, she earns a Bachelor degree in 1920 and a Master degree in 1921. She then continues her education at Cambridge University in England, under the supervision of Sir Arthur Eddington, one of the leading astronomers of its time. In 1925, she is awarded a Ph.D. in astrophysics from McGill University, the first one delivered by a university in Québec, at a time when women astrophysicists could be counted on the fingers of one hand in America. She remains in McGill as a professor for the next 14 years. She is then appointed Dean Of Women at Queens University, where she is influential in having women accepted in engineering and medicine faculties. An asteroid was named after her following her death in 1988.

The naming comes after the efforts of Yvan Dutil, an astrophysicist working for ABB (Analytical and Advanced Solutions) in Québec City. When making researches about the history of astronomy in Québec, Dutil discovered that no feature was named after her on Venus. "This was especially shocking since the IAU decided to use only women names for geographical features on the surface of Venus". To correct this situation, Dutil contacted the Working Group on the Planetary System Nomenclature of the IAU to suggest the name of Vibert-Douglas. It became clear that the suggestion would be rapidly accepted, remembers Yvan Dutil. Within about six months, the name was officially approved by the working group.

On Venus, large craters (more than 20 km in diameter) are named after famous women, and small craters after given feminine names. All other types of features are named after feminine mythological characters. Since there was no longer any large crater available, the name as been given to a Patera, a term used to described irregular craters, or a complex one with scalloped edges; probably of tectonic origin. The Vibert-Douglas Patera is located at 11.6 South latitude, 194.3 East longitude. It is an almost circular depression with a diameter of 45 km.

With the Working Group on the Planetary System Nomenclature approval, the name becomes international nomenclature with provisional status, until its official adoption during the forthcoming General Assembly of the IAU in Sydney, Australia, in 2003.

For additional information, Yvan Dutil can be reached at:
Tél. (418) 653-2910 (home)
        (418) 877-2944 ext 226 (office)