George Mercer Dawson

George Mercer Dawson

Canadian geologist and geographer
Date of Birth: 01.08.1849
Country: Canada

  1. Biography of George Mercer Dawson
  2. Education and Career
  3. Contributions and Recognition
  4. Legacy

Biography of George Mercer Dawson

George Mercer Dawson was a Canadian geologist and geographer. He was born to Sir John William Dawson and Margaret A.I. Mercer. At the age of eleven, he contracted spinal tuberculosis, which caused a curvature of the spine and halted his growth. However, this physical setback did not hinder him from becoming one of Canada's greatest scientists. His teachers and father assisted him in his educational needs during his lengthy recovery.

Education and Career

Dawson studied at the Montreal High School and McGill University before going to London in 1869 to study geology and paleontology at the Royal School of Mines, now a part of the Imperial College. After three years of study, he graduated at the top of his class. He was awarded a doctorate degree in 1890 from Queen's University and in 1891 from McGill University.

Dawson conducted extensive exploration of Western Canada in the 19th century. He began his research on the United States-Canada border from 1872 to 1876, resulting in a 387-page report titled "Geology and Resources of the Area Along the 49th Parallel from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains, with Lists of Plants and Animals Observed and Notes on Fossils." This report established Dawson as a respected scientist. His topographical surveys allowed for the development of agricultural, forestry, and mining activities in Western Canada.

In 1883 and 1884, Dawson embarked on expeditions to the Canadian Rockies to create a map of the major mountains, peaks, and rivers assigned by the Canadian government. Among the numerous peaks he discovered were Mount Assiniboine (3,618 m) and Mount Temple (3,543 m). In 1886, his map of the Rocky Mountains from the American border to the Red Deer Valley and Kicking Horse Pass was published.

In 1887, he led an expedition to the Yukon and produced several early maps of what would become the Northwest Territories. His report was reissued ten years later due to public interest in the area during the Klondike Gold Rush. The city of Dawson, the former capital of Yukon, was named in his honor. Dawson Creek in British Columbia also bears his name.

Contributions and Recognition

Dawson became a member of the Geological Survey of Canada (GCC) in 1875 and was elected as its Deputy Chairman in 1883 and Chairman in 1895. He also conducted surveys of the British Columbia region, which influenced the Canadian government's decision to build a railway to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1882, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Society of Canada. In 1887, together with William Ogilvie and Richard McConnell, he conducted a topographical survey of the border between Alaska and Yukon and studied the gold deposits in the area.


George Mercer Dawson passed away suddenly from acute bronchitis in Ottawa. He was buried in a family plot at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

Dawson's contributions to geological and geographical research in Canada have left a lasting legacy. His meticulous surveys and reports have been instrumental in the development and understanding of Western Canada's natural resources and landscapes. He is remembered as one of the greatest scientists in Canadian history.