John Percy

John Percy
Professor Emeritus
Place of Birth: 
Windsor, England
Graduation Years: 
First Year Employed at Erindale College: 
Department / Division: 
Astronomy & Astrophysics; OISE/UT; and UTM-Chemical and Physical Sciences

I am very pleased with the way UTM has come along in its first 50 years.

John Percy

Astronomy professor emeritus John Percy has always been one of the University of Toronto’s strongest proponents of science outreach, both on the U of T Mississauga campus, university-wide and around the world. With a teaching certificate and a year of experience as a schoolteacher in hand, Percy pursued his belief in the value of educating both students and the general public about science. “There was also a long tradition of outreach in my department; it was just something we astronomers naturally did,” he says.

As one of Erindale College’s founding professors, Percy developed connections with almost every academic and administrative department on the campus, a circumstance that allowed him partner with other faculty members to help explain science to the layperson. Percy also “promoted various UTM outreach activities to schools and the general public, and gave literally hundreds of lectures to schools, later-life learners groups, the alumni, and other community groups.”

Percy directed astronomy programs at UTM for 40 years (1967 to 2007), and during that time he “served on virtually every committee on campus” and also as an administrator, assuming the position of associate dean (Sciences) and vice-principal (Research and Graduate Studies) from 1989 to 1994. He spearheaded the creation of the UTM teaching awards and the Teaching, Learning, Communications Group – now the Teaching and Learning Collaboration, which promotes teaching excellence and innovation at UTM. He also developed and directed the undergraduate science education program from 2000 until his retirement in 2007.

Percy’s research focuses the nature and evolution of stars, especially variable stars – stars whose brightness changes with time.  He involved dozens of undergraduates in scientific research, as well as outstanding senior high school students in U of T’s Mentorship Program. He has also supported and encouraged research by skilled amateur astronomers worldwide, for decades.  He continues to be an active researcher, writer and journal editor.


Selected Awards:

American Astronomical Society's Education Prize, 2013, for contributions to K-12 astronomy education worldwide, work with students and skilled amateurs (as mentioned above), public outreach, leadership in professional organizations and connecting astronomy to other disciplines, including the arts.

Inaugural recipient of the Canadian Astronomical Society's Qilak Award, 2012, for excellence in communicating astronomy to the public.

One of five inaugural recipients of the University of Toronto President's Teaching Award, in 2006, the highest university-wide teaching award.

Selected Publications:

Understanding Variable Stars (Cambridge University Press, 2007) is the definitive monograph on this topic, written especially with students and skilled amateur astronomer researchers in mind. 

Editor, UTM’s 25th anniversary history and, with Sabeen Abbas, UTM’s 40th anniversary history,

Author of more than 250 research and education papers, co-author of a high school science textbook and editor of eight conference proceedings.