Laying the foundations for mapping Canada

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Sir William Logan founded the Geographical Survey of Canada. His work laid the foundation for mapping the entire country. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

Molly Gatt

Algonquin College Journalism Program

Sir William Logan discovered his skill at mapping out of necessity. Born in Montreal to Scottish parents, he was sent to Edinburg to get the best education possible at only 16. But despite his high marks, Logan dropped out of university at the end of his first year to take a job at his uncle’s business.

He started as an accountant, but when opportunity struck in 1831, Logan took on a management position at a coal and copper mine in Wales. Logan realized all the efforts were pointless if the miners weren’t constantly finding minerals. He took it upon himself to make detailed and extensive maps of South Wales. Logan did this by making field observations, taking information from miners and drill cores and the use of a compass and theodolite. In 1835 the Geological Survey of Great Britain was founded and they adopted Logan’s work.

Logan worked for his uncle’s company for over 20 years and continued mapping the South of Wales until an opportunity in Canada presented itself. Canada needed a geographical survey and Logan was ready for the job. He moved back to his hometown of Montreal and set up the first building for the Geological Survey of Canada in 1843.

That year, Logan and his team surveyed the Gaspé Peninsula. Followed by the Canadian Shield, Timiskaming, Ottawa and Lake Superior regions. Logan worked hard for his position. He spent half his time traveling the country mapping and the other half traveling internationally to promote the GSC. With his team, he laid the foundation for mapping the rest of Canada. Logan worked until his death in 1875. He was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 1992.

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