Charles Heavitree Todd

Charles Heavitree Todd was born 7 July 1826 London and initially worked at the Royal Observatory Greenwich (1841–1847). From 1847 he worked at th Cambridge University observatory as the assistant astronomer. On 10 February 1855, Charles Todd was appointed to the post of Superintendent of Telegraphs and Government Astronomer.

Todd arrived in South Australia in the following November with his wife, Alice (from whom Alice Springs is named) and his assistant, Edward Cracknell and his wife and immediately commenced meteorological observations moving them to the Adelaide Observatory on its completion in 1860.

Todd proposed a plan to the SA Government for providing a weather service based on regular reports from the telegraphic and postal network. He was to set up, direct and supply weather services to South Australians until his retirement in 1906. The Post Office staff in South Australia and the Northern Territory had to make regular weather observations and to post these daily to the Adelaide GPO where it was collated. By 1893 Todd was claiming a 73% accuaracy rate for weather forecasting.

Todd pioneered the publications in newspapers of weather maps in newspapers from 1882.

Todd is better known for the construction of the 3178 km Adelaide to Port Darwin overland telegraph, which linked Australia with Europe through Batavia. In 1870, Todd was appointed as South Australia Post-Master General and persuaded the government to build the overland telegraph although he had first mooted the concept as early as 1863. In 1877, Todd extended the Telegraph from Port Augusta to Eucla on the WA border.

As the Government Astronomer, Todd was responsible for determining the precise position of the Adelaide Observatory at latitude 138°34'58"E, and latitude 34°55'38"S and this was used as benchmark for fixing the colony's boundaries.

Todd was widely published and a foundation member and the inaugural president of the Astronomical Society of South Australia (which was established in 1892) until his death at his summer home at Semaphore on 29 January 1910. He is buried at the North Road Cemetery.

Update Oct 2017

There is some debate on Wikipedia as to whether Todd had a 2nd given name.

The State Library of SA names Todd as Sir Charles Heavitree Todd and they hold his personal papers (Series PRG 630). These may shed light on the matter. I assumed the Library would be correct when I wrote this article.

One would have thought his descendant, Alice Thompson who wrote a book on Charles Heavitree Todd, would know the man’s name!

Many records of the era only record first given names. Also second given names were uncommon in 1826 but some later adopted a 2nd given name.

Todd was baptised as plain Charles 7 Jul 1826 Greenwich Cripplegate (The National Archives series RG5/134)

In the 1841 census he at home as plain Charles Todd (HO107/489 bk 1 f30 p4) but then I would have expected this as this census often only gives 1st names. In the 1851 census he is visiting the Edward Bell family (HO107/1760 f514 p27) and again is plain Charles but then would his host have known of a 2nd name?

At this stage and without further searching I suspect he may have been plain Charles as there is no hard evidence readily at hand to state otherwise prior to 1851. I would like to know how Heavitree was added and whether it was in error by historians or by Todd himself in latter life.

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