ASHE, Edward David (1813-1895)




Born on January 13th 1813 in Bath, England, Edward David Ashe was the son of Andrew Ashe, musician, and Mary Comer, singer.

Ashe entered the British Royal Navy in 1830 and studied gunnery at Portsmouth, England. He successfully passed his examinations in 1836. His naval career took place in the Mediterrannean and in the Pacific Ocean. After having developed a new method to concentrate ship’s fire, Ashe was promoted to lieutenant in 1842. His naval career ended abruptly in 1849 after he fractured his thigh in a shipboard accident. In 1865, he was promoted to commander on the Royal Navy’s retired list in Quebec City.

After his accident, he was offered the directorship of a new observatory planned to be built on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. The observatory served mainly to provide accurate time to the port of Quebec, but Ashe also observed the stars to determine the longitude of several Canadian cities. Ashe was also interested in observing the sun and soon became a global expert on solar studies; his photographs of sunspots and his controversial theories on the subject were published in British and Canadian scientific journals at the time. He retired from the observatory in 1886 and his son, William Austin Ashe, took over as director.

Ashe was president of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1866, 1867 and 1873. He delivered many conferences in the Society rooms.

He published many scientific articles, including On Determining the Longitude at Sea from Altitudes of the Moon (1852), On the Pendulum Experiment for Illustrating the Rotation of the Earth (1855), Water Power of Quebec (1855), Plan of the Construction of a Raft to Rescue Passengers from Sinking Ships (1855), On the Employment of the Electric Telegraph in Determining the Longitude of some of the Principal Places in Canada (1859), The Late Eclipse: Journal of a Voyage from New York to Labrador (1861), Notes of a Journey Across the Andes (1862), Motions of the Top, Teetotum, and Gyroscope (1864), Results of Observations for the Determination of the Latitude of the Observatory (1864), On Solar Spots (1867), On the Physical Constitution of the Sun (1869) and The Canadian Eclipse Party, 1869 (1870)

He died in Sherbrooke on March 30th 1895. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Sherbrooke.

He married Marcella Maude Percy in Quebec in 1851, daughter of Gilbert Percy, Anglican minister, and Marcella Chaplain.

– Patrick Donovan, June 2015

Ashe, Edward David


  • “Ashe, Andrew.”  A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and other stage personnel in London (1660-1800), vol. 1. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973.
  • JARRELL, Richard A. “Ashe, Edward David.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Online).
  • “Commander Edward David ASHE R.N., F.R.A.S.” Ashe family.
  • “Find A Grave Index,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 February 2015), Edward David Ashe, 1895; Burial, Sherbrooke, Estrie Region, Quebec, Canada, Elmwood Cemetery; citing record ID 119210144, Find a Grave,
  • “Obituary : Mr. Andrew Ashe.” The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol X, Pt II, August 1838. p.216-218.