Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/244

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



vice to that province at a time of special interest in the history of its schools and educational institutions. He also took an active part in the establishment of a normal school in Nova Scotia, and in the regulation of the affairs of the University of New Brunswick, as a member of the commission appointed by Sir Edmund Head for the purpose.

In 1855 he was called to the position which he still holds, that of Principal and Professor of Natural History in McGill College and University, an institution which, situated in Montreal, the commercial capital of Canada, draws its students from all parts of the Dominion. The university has prospered under his wise and liberal management beyond the most sanguine expectations of its friends and promoters.

The raising of McGill College to its present position would have been work enough in itself for these years, but in addition to this Dr. Dawson has had under his care the Protestant Normal School. From his position there he has had a great deal to do with the moulding and controlling of the school system of the country. After many years' faithful work, he withdrew (in 1870) from this office.

His special work in connection with the university and the normal school took up much of that time which would have otherwise have been devoted to original investigations in his favorite science.

A review of his more important scientific labors will show us how much may be done even in the midst of engrossing educational occupations. As early as 1830 Dr. Dawson began to make collections of the fossil plants of the Nova Scotia coal formation. In 1841 he contributed to the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh his first scientific paper, on the species of field-mice found in Nova Scotia. In 1843 he communicated a paper on the rocks of Eastern Nova Scotia to the Geological Society of London; this was followed in 1844 by a paper on the newer coal formation. In 1845, besides exploring and reporting on the iron-mines of Londonderry, Nova Scotia, he published a paper on the coal fossils of that province.

During the winter of 1846-'47, while studying in Edinburgh, he contributed to the Royal Society of that city papers on the "Formation of Gypsum," and on the "Bowlder Formation," and an article to Jameson's Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, on the "Renewal of Forests destroyed by Fire." The facts embodied in the last were subsequently employed by him in combating the exaggerated periods of time assigned to such changes by European geologists.

From 1847 to 1849 we find him, with the same never-flagging zeal, pursuing his geological researches, and giving the results to the world infrequent papers. The most important of these are: 1. "On the Triassic Red Sandstones of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island;" 2. "On the Coloring Matters of Red Sandstones;" 3. "On Erect Calamites found near Pictou;" 4. "On the Metamorphic Rocks of Nova Scotia." He also published his "Handbook of the Geography and Natural History of Nova Scotia," and delivered courses of