Fonds MG2048 - Natural History Society of Montreal Fonds

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Natural History Society of Montreal Fonds

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  • 1889-1890; 1913-1925 (Creation)
    Natural History Society of Montreal

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1 cm of textual records

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Administrative history

The Natural History Society of Montreal was founded on May 16, 1827 on Saint Paul Street near the Port of Montreal by a group of twenty-six doctors, professors and educators including John Bethune, Alexander Skakel, William Robertson and Andrew Fernando Holmes. A primarily Anglophone institution, closely tied to McGill University, the society’s mandate was to foster a general spirit of scientific and literary research through sponsoring lectures on scientific topics, establishing a museum and library dedicated to the study of natural history, and publishing journals including the Canadian naturalist and quarterly journal of science, the Canadian naturalist and geologist, the Canadian record of natural history and geology and the Canadian Record of Science on and off through to 1916.

The society was comprised of a board of directors, headed by a president, with several committees led by committee chairs. Notable presidents included the first one, Stephen Sewell, Alexander Skakel, and John William Dawson, McGill Principal, 1855-1893 and professor of chemistry, agriculture, and natural history that included geology, zoology and botany. Dawson was first served as President in 1857 and went on to another 19 terms in this position. Dawson also made significant contributions to the publication Canadian naturalist and geologist and along with members of the Geological Survey such as William Edmond Logan, Thomas Sterry Hunt help to establish Montreal as an international Centre for the study of geology. The Natural History Society provided venues for talks, publications and scientific networking in support of these efforts.

In the 1830s, the Natural History Society moved to a larger space on St. James Street and in 1860 to the corners of Cathcart and University Streets, and finally in 1906 to Drummond and Mountain Streets. In the 1850s and 1860s, the Natural History Society of Montreal collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada brought many years of prosperity to the institution, with membership as high as 400. The departure of the Survey to Ottawa by 1881 ended this relationship and the Society membership was greatly reduced. In 1902, the Microscopical Society of Montreal was absorbed by the Natural History Society of Montreal, which saw the transfer of their records to the Society. By 1925, however, the Society had accumulated insurmountable debt and was forced to dissolve.

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The Society's bank book,1913-1925 and receipt book, 1924-1925, are accompanied by a newspaper account of its annual outing in 1889, and a photocopy of the notice of a meeting, 1890.

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