Sir William Logan founded the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) in 1842 and served as its first director for 27 years. The first Canadian scientific organization, the GSC has since made a major contribution to the country’s economic growth.
Logan and his staff provided a sound preliminary knowledge of the geology and mineral resources of Upper and Lower Canada. This knowledge laid the foundation for later mineral discoveries and more elaborate studies in the United Canadas.
At the GSC, Logan’s principal objectives were regional mapping and the evaluation of potential economic mineral deposits. He emphasized the importance of both field and laboratory studies, tenets that still form the basis of the present-day GSC.
Through his published reports and exhibits, he was also responsible for bringing Canada’s mineral potential to the notice of the outside world. His Geology of Canada, 1863, with its overtones of the economic importance of every rock and mineral with which he came in contact, advanced the development of the country immeasurably.
Logan was born in Montreal in 1798. He studied briefly in Edinburgh before his uncle sent him to Swansea to oversee an investment in a new smelting process. As a result, Logan developed an interest in mineralogy and in solving geological problems. His lack of formal education in geology was characteristic of the times, and he gradually became an acknowledged expert on copper and coal.
Twenty-five years before Confederation, on April 14, 1842, he accepted an appointment as provincial geologist for Canada and established the GSC. Assisted with funds from the first parliament for the United Canadas, he began his work with one assistant, soon adding two others. Together, assisted by part-time employees including clergymen and physicians interested in geology, they produced a body of work regarded as monumental. They established many fundamentals of Canadian geology on which later research was based and built an organization that has continued to play a large part in the nation’s mineral industry.
Logan’s organization, training and inspiration for his staff were so extensive that he must be accorded part of the credit for their contributions as well as his own.
In 1843, he started work on the coal fields of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and later that year began exploration of the Gaspé Peninsula. His reports in subsequent years covered the geology of Ottawa, the economic geology of the Lake Superior region, the geology of Quebec, especially the Eastern Townships and the North Shore, the north shore of Lake Huron, the gold-bearing gravels of the Chaudiere region and the southeastern part of the Canadian Shield.
The work was not detailed by today’s standards, but it was accurate and thorough. Annual reports of activities were published which led to discoveries and the investment of capital for development. These annual reports formed the basis for the Geology of Canada, 1863.
He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1856 and awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor by the French emperor. During his career he received 22 medals in all.
Logan died June 22, 1875.