Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Dawson, George Mercer (Canada 1849-1901)
geology, anthropology

Dawson was the son of the great geologist Sir John William Dawson (1820-1899), and very nearly managed to match his father's accomplishments despite being severely hampered by Potts Disease (tuberculosis of the spine), which both ended his growth at age twelve, and left him very physically deformed. Notwithstanding this setback, he persevered to become a brilliant field geologist who geologically explored large portions of northwestern Canada, generated large paleontological collections, executed extensive survey and mapping operations, and investigated the area's mineralogical potential. He also carried out detailed and influential ethnological investigations. Dawson, Yukon, is named for him. His character may be judged from the meaning of the name given him by his native guide during the early years of his work in the Northwest: "brave, cheery man." As an administrator he was somewhat less successful, but as a professional scientist and writer of reports he was highly admired. The premature end of this very remarkable man's life came from an attack of bronchitis: he apparently was an inveterate chain-smoker.

Life Chronology

--born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, on 1 August 1849.
--1858: contracts tuberculosis of the spine (Pott's disease) and is left with serious physical deformities
--1868-1869: attends McGill College, Montreal
--1869: dredges for foraminifers at Gaspé; travels to England
--1870: publishes a paper on the geographical distribution of foraminifers
--1872: graduates with honors from the Royal School of Mines, Kensington, U. K.; returns to Canada to teach at Morrin College, Quebec
--1874: joins the international boundary survey from Lake of the Woods to British Columbia; discovers fossil evidence of dinosaurs near Lake of the Woods
--1875: publishes his Report on the Geology and Resources of the Region in the Vicinity of the Forty-ninth Parallel...
--1878: visits the Queen Charlotte Islands (off the coast of British Columbia)
--1879: publishes a report on Haida culture and language
--1883: becomes assistant director of the Geological Society of Canada (GSC)
--1884: appointed by the British Association for the Advancement of Science to study the native Americans of northwestern Canada
--1885-1886: acting director of the GSC
--1887: leads a survey into the Yukon territory; publishes a geological map of the territory
--1889: publishes a study of the mineral wealth of British Columbia
--1891: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London; earns Geological Society of London's Bigsby medal
--1893: associate editor, Journal of Geology (Chicago); president, Royal Society of Canada
--1895: made director of the GSC
--1897: chairs an ethnological survey of Canada; awarded the Royal Geographical Society's gold medal
--1898: Dawson City, Yukon Territory, named after him; made vice-president of the Canadian Institute of Mining
--1900: elected president of the Geological Society of America
--dies at Victoria Chambers, Ottawa, on 2 March 1901.

For Additional Information, See:

--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 15 (2004).
--Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 13 (1994).
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--Geological Society of America Bulletin, Vol. 13 (1902): 497-509.
--American Geologist, Vol. 28(2) (1901): 67-76.
--Science, Vol. 13(328) (1901): 561-563.
--American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 3(1) (1901): 159-163.

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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