Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 1226-1227


Klotz, Otto Julius

BornPreston, (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada), 31 March 1852

DiedOttawa, Ontario, Canada, 28 December 1923

Otto Klotz pioneered the development of geophysics in Canada. The son of German immigrants Otto and Elisé (née Wilhelm) Klotz, Otto studied at the local grammar school and entered the University of Toronto in 1869 but transferred to the University of Michigan the following year. There he studied with James Craig Watson at the Detroit Observatory. After graduating as a civil engineer in 1872, Klotz returned to Preston to establish a private surveying practice. After obtaining the highest qualifications in surveying, he became a contract surveyor for the Department of the Interior (1879), working on the prairie surveys. In 1885, the department gave him the more difficult task of surveying the Canadian Pacific Railway line through the mountains of British Columbia. In 1892, Klotz moved to Ottawa to become a permanent staff member. With the Chief Astronomer, William King , Klotz helped to press for, and then design, the future Dominion Observatory, which opened in Ottawa in 1905. Klotz was effectively the assistant director and headed the geophysical work at the observatory. On King’s death in 1916, Klotz’s appointment as director was held up due to anti-German sentiment. He became chief astronomer and director in 1917, serving till his death.

Klotz was active in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Toronto, Michigan, and Pittsburgh. He was Canada’s organizing head for entering both the International Union for Geodesy and Geophysics and the International Astronomical Union in 1919–1922. He was also president of the Seismological Society of America. Klotz and his wife Marie Widenmann (married 1873) had four children.

Klotz can be considered Canada’s pioneer geophysicist. His division at the Dominion Observatory produced important results for decades after his death. He worked on gravity measurements and magnetic field surveys, but was most interested in the new field of seismology, working on microseisms. At the time of his death, the Dominion Observatory was one of the most important seismological stations in the world.

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