Ledingham, George Filson (1911-2006)

George Ledingham (right) with University of Regina President Lloyd Barber.
University of Regina Archives and Special Collections 87-54-646

Ledingham, George Filson (1911–2006). George Ledingham was born on January 31, 1911, in Moose Jaw. As a child he became very interested in birds and plants; that interest has continued throughout his lifetime, as shown by his choice of career and his interest in all living organisms.

He attended Normal School and taught for one year at a rural school near Keeler. He received his BSc in 1934 and his MSc in 1936 from the University of Saskatchewan. He earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1939 with research on the phylogenetics of alfalfa. He remained on the farm during the war while teaching at Regina College and the Junior College in Moose Jaw. In 1945, he and his wife Marjorie and son Beatty moved to Regina, where he became a faculty member at Regina College. As Regina College became a campus of the University of Saskatchewan and then the University of Regina, he was promoted through the ranks, becoming department chairman from 1969 to 1971. He taught classes in introductory biology, botany and genetics, even after retirement. He collected specimens of vascular plants, mosses and lichens, which formed the basis of the university herbarium. In 1990 the University recognized his contributions by officially naming the herbarium the George F. Ledingham Herbarium, which now contains more than 50,000 specimens of vascular plants, mosses and lichens. He is currently collaborating with John Hudson and Vern Harms on a Flora of Saskatchewan.

Ledingham has inspired thousands of students, some of whom have continued their studies and received graduate degrees in botanical topics. In 1965–66 he traveled the world in search of specimens of Astragalus, and on this trip found in Iran a new species, which bears the name Astragalus ledinghamii.

In 1945 he became a very active member of Nature Saskatchewan and the Regina Natural History Society. He held a number of executive positions with both societies and served for seventeen years as the editor of the Blue Jay magazine. He also contributed to many other studies such as the Coronach Power Project and the Lake Louise Project. In 1960 in the Canadian Audubon he called for a protected area to preserve some of the remaining grasslands from agricultural development, and was the driving force behind the preservation of a part of the short grass ecosystem. After twenty years of lobbying, the Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan was formally announced in 1981. He was instrumental in preserving three natural areas: an area in the Strawberry Lakes region south of Indian Head; a quarter section of land in the West Block, Cypress Hills (now the Biology Field Station); and a short grass prairie near Moose Jaw.

Ledingham has been the recipient of many awards, including: the J.B. Harkin Award, given by National Parks in 1981; a special Environment Award from Environment Canada in 1985; the Pimlott Award from Canadian Nature Federation in 1985; an Honorary Degree from the University of Regina in 1986; the Heritage Award by Canadian Parks Service in 1992; and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1994. The George F. Ledingham Book Prize, which is awarded to a graduating student in biology at the May Convocation at the University of Regina, has been set up in his honour. He died on October 18, 2006.

Gwen Jones