A talented scientist and an excellent communicator,|
Chapman provided the link between the scientific
capabilities at Shirleys Bay and the government
JOHN H. CHAPMANArchitect of Canada's Early Space Program
"John Chapman's vision and determination were central to the success of the space program" says Bert Blevis, former DG Space Technology, for the Canadian Department of Communications, as he describes the man often referred to as the father of the Canadian space program.
John Chapman's career with the Canadian Government spanned from 1948, when he started with the Radio Propagation Lab as a young Ph.D. graduate, to 1979 when he met an untimely death at the age of 58 while serving as Assistant Deputy Minister of Space Technology for the Department of Communications.
A talented scientist and an excellent communicator, Chapman provided the link between the scientific capabilities at Shirleys Bay and the government decision-makers that needed his technical understanding and judgment to provide direction to the emerging Canadian space program.
His major accomplishments were to facilitate such programs as the Alouette/ISIS scientific satellite program, the Anik communication satellite program including the creation of the Communications Research Centre Canada and Telesat Canada, and the Hermes CTS demonstration satellite.
"Chapman was a natural leader," says Doris Jelly a DRTE physicist who worked for Chapman in the early 1950s. "Even though Chapman was always in a hurry, he had a twinkle in his eye and a spark of fun ... I remember the time we found him demonstrating his version of the twist dance craze in the DRTE machine shop."
"Chapman, was a very quick and intelligent person, with little time for small talk" says former colleague Dr. LeRoy Nelms, "Chapman would have liked to have become the first head of a Canadian space agency, but unfortunately he didn't live to see that happen."
Milestones in Chapman's career included:
- joining the Radio Propagation Laboratory as a Ph.D. summer student in 1948;
- his successful submission with Dr. Eldon Warren, of the Alouette 1 proposal to NASA in 1958;
- co-authoring in 1967 of what became known as the Chapman Report, or the "Upper Atmosphere and Space Programs in Canada", here he recommended the cancellation of ISIS C in favor of the Hermes satellite and pointed the direction of focus for the eventual space program;
- leading the task force in 1968, which produced a White Paper on "A Domestic Satellite Communications System for Canada", this was the basis for the establishment of Telesat and the formation of a Canadian Department of Communications in 1969;
- being the primary force behind Canada's co-operative program with NASA and the European Space Agency to design, build and demonstrate the Hermes Communications Technology Satellite, which would provide Canadians in remote areas with direct-to-home television by satellite.
Chapman did not work alone; he was part of an enormously talented technical team. He was, however, personally able to gain the support and confidence of the Canadian Government and their partners to make the investments that led to Canada's position of leadership in the aerospace and communications technology industries.