George Mercer Dawson

(1849—1901) geologist and anthropologist

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Sir John William Dawson (1820—1899) geologist and educationist

Geological Survey of Canada



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(1849–1901), geologist, paleontologist, anthropologist. Born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, son of John William Dawson and Margaret Mercer, Dawson moved to Montreal when his father became principal of McGill College in 1855. Tuberculosis of the spine confined him largely to home schooling before he attended McGill (1868) and London's Royal School of Mines (1869–72). Dawson's report for the International Boundary Survey (1875) remains a classic in Canadian geology. As field geologist for the Geological Survey of Canada, he extended broad powers of systematic reconnaissance to the Northwest, where vast mineral wealth, complex evidences of glaciation and metamorphism, impressive Native cultures, and magnificent fossil remains of dinosaurs all caught his discerning eye. The GSC's assistant director from 1883, Dawson succeeded A. R. C. Selwyn as director in 1895. Many international honours recognized a remarkably accomplished career cut short when bronchitis attacked chronically weakened lungs further damaged by Dawson's lifelong chain-smoking. He died in Ottawa, unmarried.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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