Dawson, Sir John William

Dawson, Sir John William, 1820–99, Canadian geologist and educator, b. Pictou, N.S., studied at the Univ. of Edinburgh. After serving (1850–55) as superintendent of education in Nova Scotia, he was from 1855 to 1893 principal of, and professor of geology at, McGill Univ., where he helped found and develop its Redpath museum of botany and geology. He was knighted in 1884. Dawson was a pioneer in paleobotany. His numerous papers and books, many of them classics in geology, include Acadian Geology (1855, 4th ed. 1891), Fossil Men (1880, 3d ed. 1888), and an autobiography, Fifty Years of Work in Canada (1901).

See biography by C. F. O'Brien (1971).

His son, George Mercer Dawson, 1849–1901, was a geologist (1873–75) for the North American Boundary Commission. On the staff of the Canadian Geological Survey from 1875, he served as its director from 1895. He did pioneer geological work in the Northwest Territories and in British Columbia and explored the Yukon valley. Dawson, former capital of Yukon, Canada, was named for him.

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