Fonds MG2046 - William Edmond Logan Fonds

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William Edmond Logan Fonds

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CA MUA MG2046

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  • 1772-1884 (Creation)
    Creator
    Logan, William E. (William Edmond), Sir, 1798-1875

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1 m of textual records

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(1798-1875)

Biographical history

William Logan, geologist and first director of the Geological Survey of Canada, was born in Montréal and educated there under Alexander Skakel, and briefly at the University of Edinburgh. For a while, he worked in London for the firm of his uncle, Hart Logan; however, he discovered his true geological metier when he drew some exceptionally accurate maps of the coal seams of South Wales, while employed there as a mine manager. His cartographical work won him a reputation with the British scientific community which secured his appointment as director of the Geological Survey of Canada in 1842. Logan's task as director was at once scientific and political. The survey's continued existence depended on public and governmental appreciation, not of scientific research, but of discoveries of potential mineral resources, as well as skilfull public relations through annual reports and exhibitions. Logan particularly excelled at the latter, and his displays of mineral specimens won prizes for Canada at numerous international expositions in the 1850s and 1860s. Meanwhile, Logan continued his field research and mapping with professional assistance from his subordinates Alexander Murray (cartography), Robert Bell and Thomas Sterry Hunt (chemistry) and Elkanah Billings (palaeontology). Logan was the first native Canadian to be elected to the Royal Society (1851), and he was knighted in 1856. He endowed a chair and medal at McGill, where his friend J.W. Dawson was Principal. He retired from the Survey in 1869, and died in Wales in 1875.

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Scope and content

Virtually all the Logan papers concern his scientific work. A small percentage relates to the affairs of his family, and to memorials to Logan after his death. The great majority of the papers consists of scientific correspondence from about 1820 to 1874, but mostly for the years following his appointment to the Survey in 1842. The letters deal with the collection, exchange and description of geological specimens, expeditions under the aegis of the survey, problems of research and scientific interpretation, scientific meetings, and visits by scientists. The number of correspondents, both individuals and learned societies, is very large, but the most substantial bodies of letters are from J.W. Dawson, geologist and Principal of McGill University, James Hall, palaeontologist of the New York Geological Survey, Alexander Murray, Logan's chief assistant, and James Lowe of Grenville, Québec, who supplied Logan with specimens and appears to have been casually employed by him on surveying jobs and field trips. Other correspondents include Sanford Fleming, E.D. Ashe of the Québec Observatory, Thomas Sterry Hunt, and R.I. Murchison of the Geographical Society of Great Britain. Some letters pertain to political or social affairs, but usually in close connection with the scientific work of Logan or the Survey. These files contain copies of some of Logan's outgoing letters, as well as some letters addressed to other individuals, generally his assistants. Other scientific papers consist of field trip records (a journal kept during an expedition in 1845, a weather table kept on Lake Superior in the winter of 1846-1847, work records and astronomical readings for surveying projects, notes on mineral deposits, and lists of specimens), manuscripts of three scientific papers, as well as "Observations on the proposed Geological Survey", and manuscript and printed maps and geological schemata, including some by Logan of the Bay of Fundy, Labrador, and Hamilton, Ontario regions. Manuscript catalogues of specimens were prepared by Logan for the Paris Exhibitions of 1855 and 1867. Official reports include Logan's annual reports for 1842-1844, an overview of the work of the Geological Survey, 1866, two reports by Logan on prospects for mining on the north shore of Lake Superior, 1846, 1847, and one on mineral deposits around Rivière du Loup, 1853, as well as Logan's copy of his proposed Geological Survey Bill, 1844, and some copies of reports on mining and cartography prepared by others. Logan's financial records include expense accounts for Geological Survey expeditions, as well as other professional expenditures, such as books. His private and family life is reflected by a very brief diary of an Atlantic crossing in 1856, letters to and from his brothers James and Henry, his father, his uncle Hart Logan, and Hart Logan's partner John Fleming, covering the years 1772-1856. There are also baptismal and burial certificates, and legal documents, particularly bills of sale pertaining to James Logan's farm. Memorials to Logan after his death include J.W. Dawson's correspondence concerning the Logan Memorial Fund and Collection, 1881, and a manuscript biography by Alexander Murray. There is a chronological and author/recipient index to these papers.

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