Natural Science in the New World: The Descriptive Enterprise

Date— September 21 – 24, 2006 Place— Redpath Museum of Natural History, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Registration: $175 CAD; additional charges for banquet and field trips.

Information: Ingrid Birker, Paleontology Curator, Redpath Museum ([email protected]); Victoria Dickenson, Director, McCord Museum ([email protected]); Johanne Landry, Directrice, Insectarium de Montréal ([email protected])

The history of natural history in Canada is not as well known as it should be, but it is rich. One of the first naturalist’s descriptions of the New World was Jacques Cartier’s account of “diamonds” at the mouth of Rivière du Cap-Rouge in 1541. This episode gave Quebec’s Cap Diamant its name and the saying “faux comme des diamants du Canada”. Both French and English explored and wrote about the flora, fauna and natural resources of the country. Explorers and settlers like Champlain, Denys, Sarrasin and Louis Nicolas wrote accounts and collected specimens. Surveyors and explorers mapped the country’s landscape and included Thomas Davies, William Logan, the factors of the Hudson Bay and NorthWest Companies, and Franklin and Frobisher in the Arctic. In the 19th century Montreal served as a base for the study and documentation of natural ‘philosophy’ by important figures such as John William Dawson and the botanist Frére Marie-Victorin. The knowledge of the Native peoples informed the understanding of the early explorers, and continues to inform our contemporary conception of the natural history of this country.

Meetings exploring these topics will be held at the Redpath Museum and the Jardin Botanique de Montréal, with special visits to the Biodôme de Montréal, the Insectarium, the Blacker-Wood Rare Books Collection and the Osler Medical Library at McGill, and the McCord Museum.