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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Sir John William Dawson

DAWSON, Sir John William, Canadian geologist, born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, 13 October 1820. His father came from the north of Scotland early in the century and settled at Pictou. The son received his early training at the College of Pictou, and, having finished his course there, entered Edinburgh University, returning to Nova Scotia after passing a winter in study. So early as his tenth year he manifested that love of science, which subsequently became his chief characteristic, and while prosecuting the regular course of study at Pictou College he made extensive collections in the natural history of his native province. In 1842 he accompanied Sir Charles Lyell on his scientific tour in Nova Scotia, made several original discoveries in paleontology, and followed up his investigations by studies of the carboniferous rocks of Nova Scotia, on which he contributed two important papers to the Geological society of London. In 1846 he returned to Edinburgh University, studying practical chemistry and other subjects. In 1850 he was appointed superintendent of education for Nova Scotia, an office which he held for three years. He also aided materially in establishing a normal school in Nova Scotia, and in regulating the affairs of the University of New Brunswick, as a member of the commission appointed for that purpose. In connection with these labors he published elaborate reports on the schools of Nova Scotia, and a handbook entitled "Scientitle Contributions toward the improvement of Agriculture." In 1855 he became principal and professor of natural history in McGill College, Montreal. When Professor Dawson was appointed, the medical department of the College alone was in a flourishing condition, but soon after he assumed the management all the other departments became prosperous. In 1857 he secured the establishment of McGill normal school for the training of Protestant teachers, became its principal, and lectured in it on natural science until 1870. In 1858 he established a school of civil engineering, which was discontinued in 1863 by an act of the legislature, but which he revived in 1871 as the department of practical and applied science in connection with the College over which he presided. Dr. Dawson was elected a fellow of the Geological society of London in 1854, and of the Royal society in 1862 ; was elected president of the American association and of the Royal society of Canada in 1882, and of the British association in 1886. He was created a companion of the order of St. Michael and St. George in 1882, and knighted in 1885. In 1852 he discovered the Dendrerpeton acadianum, Pupa vetusta, and other fossil reptiles, and in 1864 the Eozoon canadense, the most important of his geological discoveries. Sir William Logan had before noticed this fossil; but Dr. Dawson, to whom he submitted his specimens, was the first to demonstrate its foraminiferous character and to describe its structure. Hitherto the Laurentian rocks had been regarded as devoid of life, and were known as the azoic, but Dr. Dawson now substituted the name eozoic.

When the theory of evolution was gaining ground among men of science, Dr. Dawson strongly opposed the extreme view, and he has always shown an aversion to those scientific hypotheses, which seem to threaten the foundations of religious faith. In a course of lectures delivered in New York in 1874'5 he contended that the discoveries of modern science, so far as they are facts, harmonize completely with the sacred record. In 1883 Dr. Dawson traveled in Egypt and Syria. His numerous scientific papers include " The Formation of Gypsum," "Boulder Formation," "The Renewal of Forests destroyed by Fire," "5lode of Accumulation of Coal," and "On the Triassic Red Sandstone of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island." He has published in book form " Hand Book of Geography and Natural History of Nova Scotia"; " Acadian Geology" (1855); "Archaia, or Studies of Creation in Genesis" (1859); " Air Breathers of the Coal Period "; "Notes on the Post Pliocene of Canada" (1873); "The Story of the Earth and Man " (New York, 1873); " Science and the Bible" (1875); "The Dawn of Life" (1875); "The Origin of the World" (1877);" Fossil Men and their Modern Representatives" (1878); " The Change of Life in Geological Time" (1880); "Chain of Life" (1884); and " Egypt and Syria " (1885).His son, George Mercer, Canadian geologist, born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, 1 August 1849, was educated at McGill College and at the Royal school of mines, London, gaining at the latter the Edward Forbes medal in paleontology and the Murchison medal in geology, and being graduated as E. S. M. in 1872. In 1873'4 he was geologist and naturalist in connection with Her Majesty's North American boundary commission, and since then has been assistant director of the geological survey of Canada. He has traveled extensively in British Columbia, the Canadian northwest, and in Europe, in connection with the investigation of refining industries. He is the author of " Geology and Resources of the Forty-ninth Parallel," reports in connection with geological survey, and numerous papers on geology, natural history, and ethnology.

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