C. Gordon Winder, Professor(emer.) of Geology 

University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, N6A 5B7,

wrote the following essay on the occasion of the 200th birthday, April 20, 1998, of

Canada's most eminent and revered geologist. The essay was sent out by

e-mail across Canada and several dozen colleges in the United States. 


Availability of a New Book – see  Bottom of Page



         What's this? a 200th Birthday! Excuse for a Party?

     Whose? Sir William Logan!! Who's he? Founder and first director of the Geological Survey of Canada, from 1842 - 1869 - hey!! That’s before Confederation. YUP!! So what did he do? Walked, Paced, Counted steps for a zillion miles through thick Canadian bush with swarms of biting flies long before anyone thought of bug spray -- rain or shine, even snow yet -- mapping the geology, and making maps as he traveled - or those that existed he corrected - wore out dozens of field boots which lined the survey office walls in Montreal. OH! yes he did have three or four amateur  helpers. The first summary volume of  Canada's geology was published in 1863 - copy in university libraries - and a map in 1865, with a  larger version in 1869, which Logan probably hand coloured each copy himself.  Corel Draw was in the future.

  So what's the date?? >>>APRIL 20<<<< it's a Monday!! Do we have a wingding of a party? No!  WHY?? Sir William would not come. He'd rather be out walking a traverse. {My GOD!!! - how dull!! - well that's the way he was!!] When he was knighted in 1856, Montreal and Toronto held great soirees of celebration - he HAD to attend, and give a speech which he loathed. Montreal gave him a great magnificent ‘Stanley cup sized’ trophy, call the SILVER FOUNTAIN. For 25 years I have scoured Canada, USA,  and the UK - not a trace. Even Canadian antique dealers, UK auctioneers, and Henry Birks were asked. Nothing!! I sometimes wonder if he just dropped in the Atlantic on one of his many crossings. [Titanic explorers alert!!!] His numerous medals are on display in Logan Hall at GSC headquarters in Ottawa. By  the way, John Molson was a good friend!

  If we don't have a party, then what? Can't miss a chance to celebrate. Do what Logan would have done --  go for a walk!! - what? go for a walk?? How dull! Where? Just around the block, or across the campus, or  home  - rain or shine - in field boots. What's the date again?  April 20! A good walk will do you some good - remember Logan lived to age 77 when the average was probably about 50. Oh! didn't drink beer! -  once in a while a nip of sherry.

  Had enough of Logan? If so just STOP here and go on with important business. But for the curious, there's more. Have you heard of Mt. Logan?  Canada's highest mountain - know after whom it is named? You guessed it - our birthday boy. In the following there's a few more things which bear his name. And if after reading though that and you're game for more, then delve into the six essays published in the CIM BULLetin, 1991-92 -- which drew the comment - "What detail!!" and these can be found in university libraries. .

H A P P Y   2 0 0 TH    S I R   W I L L I A M ! ! !

Sir William Edmond Logan (1798-1875)

 Source: Public Archives of Canada C7606

 WILLIAM EDMOND LOGAN (1798 - 1875):


  Citizens who make notable contributions to society are memorialized by applying their name to a major award - Nobel; a way of thinking - Cartesian; a scientific law - Charles [or general law - Murphy]; a unit of measure - Ampere; and most commonly a geographic feature - Hudson Bay, Vancouver Island, etc. William Edmond Logan made a monumental contribution to Canada between 1842 and 1869. His name is applied to not one mountain, but two - Mount Logan (elev. 1100 m) located about 125 miles west of Gaspe, Quebec, and Mount Logan (elev.5959 m) in the south west corner of the Yukon territory, the highest in Canada and second highest in North America. His name is also applied to a range of mountains in central Yukon; a submarine canyon in the Atlantic continental shelf; two islands; a bay; a lake; an inlet; a township in Quebec; and a government park in Gaspe. Geologically his name has been applied to a mineral (weloganite); several fossils (such as Maclurites logani); the Logan sills at Thunder  Bay; the Cretaceous Logan Canyon Formation in the subsurface of the Atlantic continental shelf; Logan's  Line, the demarkation between the folded Appalachians and the flat-lying Paleozoic sediments, trending from Lake Champlain to Quebec City and beyond; and Logan's Loop, in the western Pacific, the path of  earth's magnetic pole during the Proterozoic.

  There is the Logan Medal, highest award of the Geological Association of Canada; Logan Tower, headquarters building in Ottawa of the Geological Survey of Canada; Logan Club, professional  organization for GSC scientists; at McGill University, the Logan Chair for Geology, and Logan medals and prizes, financed in part by Logan; and Logan Day, a social gathering in early October when Canadian geologists gather locally for sports, story spinning, and general celebration.

  Recognition during his lifetime is evident by one notable international award. At age 44 in April 1842, Logan was appointed founder and director of the Geological Survey of Canada. Less than 14 years later, on January 29, 1856, he was knighted by Queen Victoria, the first individual who was born in Canada, and a rare honour for a scientist. He also received honourary degrees from McGill University, and the University of Lennoxville(Bishop's), medals from the Geological Society of London; the Royal Society of London; Napoleon III of France; from Portugal, Order of the Tower and Sword; and medals for International Exhibitions in London(1851) and Paris(1855). The citizens of Montreal presented him with a Silver Fountain [present location unknown], and the citizens of Toronto organized a gala dinner, and  commissioned his portrait.

  William Logan was born in Montreal, April 20,1798, in a family whose father had immigrated from Scotland, was a successful baker, and wealthy farmer and property owner. He had three brothers and four sisters. In 1814 William was sent to Scotland to finish high school, and won several prizes. In 1816, he registered at Edinburgh University in medicine, and his classes, all large, were logic, mathematics, and chemistry. He achieved the highest class mark in mathematics, for which his award was a brass octant, with his name engraved in Latin. This instrument is like a sextant but only horizontal angles can be measured; it can be seen in the Logan Museum at the Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa. [In 1944, the instrument was found near Llandeilo, Wales, in a barn loft owned by a descendant of one of his sisters; the octant ownership was evident but its significance was unknown to them].  Logan left the university at the end of the year, possibly upon hearing about surgery without benefit of anaesthetic. Within a week he was in London working for his uncle Hart Logan as bookkeeper and accountant. During his leisure hours, he took lessons in painting, languages, flute, and geometry. [The Latin roots mean earth measuring, the mathematics of dimension and volume.] In 1831, his uncle acquired an interest in copper smelting and coal mining near Swansea, Wales, and William was appointed manager. South Wales has broad river valleys with low rolling hills, on the sides of which could been seen the numerous small coal mines operated by one or two men. The smelting operation required a continuous supply coal which these small individual operations could not guarantee. Logan wrote his brother in London for old clothes, books on mineralogy, and a theodolite, and proceeded to construct precise geological maps. Whether he had any surveying instruction is unknown. The existing geological maps were by William (Strata) Smith, 1815, and George Greenough, 1820, for which the detail was highly generalized. Whether Logan was even aware of these maps is unknown. His maps were of sufficient detail with a high degree of accuracy, that the British geological survey adopted for publication; Logan's name is still on the modern versions for the area.

  Did Logan have any interest in geology before going to Swansea in 1831? At Edinburgh University, the chemistry professor was T.C. Hope, an ardent and vocal supporter of Wernerism. Another faculty member was Sir James Hall, an original investigator in experimental igneous petrology, who argued vulcanism.  Logan probably heard the rhetoric about these understandings, but probably little basic geology and principles. In 1833 at which time he was starting his mapping, he was reading Conybeare and Phillips 'Outlines of the Geology of England and Wales', published in 1822, in which are such words as granite, travertine, and jasper without definitions. In 1834, he made a business trip to France and Spain, and he was reading the third volume of Charles Lyell's 'Principles of Geology', published that year. In 1829, Logan made a trip to Italy and
  his diary suggests as a tourist. He recorded the rock types used as building stone - granite(11); porphyry(2); marble(8); travertine(5);jasper(2);lapis lazuli; alabaster; and pozzulana. Would the average tourist in 1829 be able to identify these rocks? -[or in 1998 for that matter?] That Logan's uncle purchased an interest in a copper smelting operation suggests his business was commodities broker, including building stone. Logan would have been familiar as a business interest, and not science. His mapping South Wales coal was his introduction to geology. In 1835, the Swansea Philosophical and Literary Society was organized and Logan was curator for geology. In 1838, his uncle Hart died, his employment was terminated, but he continued his geological mapping until 1841.

  In 1842, when Logan was appointed GSC founder and director, he was probably the best prepared candidate, physically, intellectually, scientifically, mentally, and by nationality.  In stature, Logan was about five foot nine inches, and possibly weighing  150 pounds. Walking was annate!! In April 1828 for ten days, he, his brother and two friends, went on a walking, climbing, riding, rowing, and sailing trip over 400 miles in the western highlands of Scotland. One night after midnight by moonlight, they rode in a farm wagon which had been used that day to haul manure.  The next day they walked 14 miles from Ballychullish to Fort William, and up and down Ben Nevis, elevation 4406 feet. While living in London and Swansea, he walked to work each day, possibly four to six miles. His field measurements in the Canadian bush were made by counting steps using a compass, with a mercury barometer for elevation. One feature of the Survey office in Montreal was a row of his worn out field boots along the wall. His accuracy was evident because, in the Grenville area north of the Ottawa River, he discovered errors in the government land surveys.  [On at least one occasion local people wondered if he should be committed to the insane asylum - what strange antics, walking along mumbling to himself, making notes in leather bound notebooks, peering at a hand-held instrument, cracking rocks with a large sledge, wrapping the chips in paper, and carrying away in a large wicker basket!!]

 Logan's lodging in Gaspe, 1843

Sea side accommodation while mapping the Gaspe

Source: Harrington 1883


  He had superior intelligence. He won prizes at high school, and the octant for mathematics at university. He must have taught himself about rock types, and geological field mapping; he progressed from near flat-lying rock in south Wales, to simple and complexly folded and faulted rocks in the Appalachians, to the metamorphic terranes of the Grenville. Presumably he was self-taught about minerals and rocks while employed by  his uncle, and as curator at the Swansea Institute. Fossils received his special attention; he called them the 'poetry of geology'.

  With respect to personal relation, he was an eccentric. Every day he did talk to each of the four or five Survey employees about their problems - T.Sterry Hunt, the chemist; Elkanah Billings, the paleontologist; James Richardson, field mapper; and the map maker, and the handyman; but not Alexander Murray, his senior field man, because he lived in Woodstock about 500 miles away. He expected his employees to work long hours, and they did, because they knew Logan worked even longer hours. He wrote out  by hand four copies of the professional reports before printing, and kept the Survey account books. Even at midnight a light could be seen in the Survey office, in which he worked and slept. Some wondered if he ever slept. Politicians always received special attention because they provided the funding. On a personal basis he usually wore field clothes every day. After his knighthood in 1856, he was probably one of the best known individuals in Canada, but few were able to identify him. One visitor to the Survey office mistook him for the handyman, and the well dressed handyman for the director. And when the demands and frustrations as director became overwhelming, he would disappear into the bush for several weeks.

  That Logan was born in Canada probably was a factor in his appointment. In 1845, he was offered the directorship for a Survey in India. He declined. I speculate about another factor. Logan's father, also named William, was a Scottish Presbyterian; his portrait conveys the image of a highly successful business man who, if he smiled, his face would crack!! His four sons, none of whom married, were probably tutored that dedication and determination in a chosen career are mandatory,  and ensured success in life. In the Presbyterian Church, one teaching was predestination, which has the corollary that a career opportunity once evident, would indicate divine direction. Whether William Edmond Logan viewed his appointment as founder of the Geological Survey of Canada in this light is unknown. But his drive, determination, vigour, resolve, and focus, allow such speculation.

  Logan's two hundredth birthday is April 20, 1998.
                                                             GO FOR A WALK!


  Bell, Robert, 1907, Sir William Logan and the Geological Survey of
          Canada: The Mortimer Co., Montreal, 28p.

  Harrington, B.J., 1883, Sir William Logan, Kt: First Director of the
          Geological Survey of Canada: Dawson Brothers Publishers,
          Montreal, 432p.

  Winder, C.G.,1965, Logan and South Wales: Geological Association of
          Canada, Proceedings, v.14, pp.103-124.

  Winder, C. Gordon, 1991-92, William Edmond Logan (1798-1875)[six articles,
          different titles]: CIM BULL, v.84, no.954,pp.14-18; v.84,
          no.956,p.8-12; v.85, no.957,pp.10-16; v.85, no.958,pp.27-40; v.85,
          no.959,pp.13-18; no.960,pp.13-21 [last includes numerous


Email me cwinder@uwo.ca 



The July 1, 1998 issue of MACLEANS, Canada's Weekly Newsmagazine, was devoted to The 100 Most Important Canadians In History.  Readers were invited to nominate individuals in ten fields - heroes, thinkers, nation builders, discoverers, artists, scientists, activists, characters, stars, and entrepeneurs. The above essay was sent to nominate Logan. The selection committee consisted of 25 experts and knowledgeable individuals, with a York University professor of history as chair.
     Sir WILLIAM EDMOND LOGAN was selected as the #1 scientist, and sixth amongst the top ten. 
     References at the end of the above essay provide much more detailed   information about Logan.

Citation in MACLEAN's, July 1, 1998, p.39,
written by Professor Jack Granatstein, of York University, chair of the selection committee.
                   SIR WILLIAM LOGAN  (1798-1875)
    He travelled the land, accurately mapping the geology of Canada.
   Canadians have excelled in scientificendeavours as diverse as
   anthropology, reaction dynamics, the telephone, and the treatment of
   diabetes. In MACLEAN'S view, though, the greatest Scientist was a
   pioneering geologist whose surveys made it possible to tap Canada's
   treasury of minerals.
   Very few Canadians have heard of Sir William Logan, but they should
have. He was one of the country's greatest scientists and a man whose
imprint remains on the land.
   Logan was born in Montreal and educated in Scotland, though he did not
progress beyond the first year medical course he began. He then worked in
England and Wales, and in his early 30s managed a Swansea coal mine and
copper smelter in which his uncle was a major investor. He quickly
realized that coal supply for the smelters had to be guaranteed and this
could be done only with the help of accurate maps of the coal seams. This
began his professional interest in geology, and he produced maps that were
so precise that the British geological survey published them. His name,
wrote MACLEAN'S reader Gordon Winder, who nominated Logan as one of The
100 Most Important Canadians, still appears on current maps.
   Thereafter, Logan was a budding scholar. When he travelled, he kept
records of the rock types he saw, and his interest and knowledge were such
that in 1842 he became the first director of the Geological Survey of
Canada. He applied himself to the task of furnishing "a full and
scientific description of the country's rocks, soils, and minerals, to
prepare maps, diagrams, and drawings, and to collect specimens to
illustrate the occurrences." He developed a reputation for high accuracy
-- and for eccentricity. What else could explain someone who walked around
mumbling to himself, taking note in leather-bound notebooks, peering at
instruments, cracking rocks with a hammer, and wrapping the chips in
paper, and carrying them off in a large wicker basket?
   Logan worked hard and expected his staff to emulate him. He dressed in
field clothes and, even after he was knighted in 1856, was occasionally
mistaken for the office janitor. He wrote of life in the bush, "living the
life of a savage, sleeping on the beach in a blanket sack with feet to
the fire, seldom taking my clothes off, eating salt pork and ship's
biscuits, occasionally tormented by mosquitoes". Logan also sketched
superbly, augmenting his geological observations with pen and ink
   His efforts laid out the geology of Canada East and Canada West. He
sought fossils with eagerness, in 1851 finding invertebrate animals
preserved in Cambrian rocks near Beauharnois. He noted how the ice pack on
the St. Lawrence River damaged houses near the shore, and these
observations influenced the way Montreal's Victoria Bridge was built. And
always, he looked for minerals that could be commercially exploited, for
he realized that government appropriations that kept the Geological Survey
going were much more likely to continue if there was a return on the
legislature's investment. Even so, there was never enough money, and Logan
put up his own cash more than once when the government was slow. His work
was invaluable, but as he explored north of Lake Superior and Lake Huron,
finding the ore bodies that provided the foundation for the mineral wealth
of Canada, he remained very cautious in his claims. That upset mining
promoters, always on the lookout for a fast dollar. Oddly, for one so
meticulous, he apparently missed the silver deposits at Cobalt and the
nickel at Sudbury.
   Logan was honored in his time as Canada's premier scientist. His
display of Canadian minerals at the Exhibition of the Industries of All
Nations in 1851 in London was hailed, and he won medals from France in
1855. He published a huge volume on the geology of Canada in 1863, and
produced an atlas of eastern and central North America in 1869, and he
likely hand-coloured every map in each of the copies. His task, as he saw
it, was "to ascertain the mineral resources of the country," and the
reports and maps that his Geological Survey produced, established the
geological fundamentals of the Canadas Mount Logan in the Yukon, the
nation's highest peak, is named in his honor, as is Mount Logan in the
Gaspe -- not to mention a lake, two islands, a bay, a glacier, and a
Quebec township.


Added to original essay 98-08-05



An Anthology


                                    WILLIAM   EDMOND LOGAN (1798 – 1875)


                                                  Knighted Canadian Geologist


                                  C. Gordon Winder


     This book is an anthology of papers published in professional and general periodicals.


                    Trafford On-Demand Publishing, Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA


                                    URL -www.trafford.com/robots/04-0855.html


            Ordering:: Toll free – 1-888-232-4444 *** E-Mail – orders@trafford.com

     VISA :: Mastercard :: 203 pp.:: $22.50+S&H +++ Can be purchased directly from the authour



         C. Gordon Winder is Professor(emer.) of Geology, University of Western Ontario, London,

           Ontario, CANADA, N6A-5B7 :: URL-www.uwo.ca/earth/Winder.html :: cwinder@uwo.ca


Added to original – 05-01-04