Macoun, John (1831-1920)

John Macoun.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A4897

Born in Ireland on April 17, 1831, John Macoun was Canada’s most important field naturalist in the mid and late 19th century. He was the naturalist on Sir Sandford Fleming’s survey of the prairies in 1872. This survey prospected possible routes for a transcontinental railroad, and gathered information on the biological resources of the area. Following the completion of the survey, Macoun lectured on the agricultural possibilities of the region. He was appointed Dominion Botanist in 1882, and established the dominion herbarium. These and other collections which he organized became the base for the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa. His interest in natural history was general, not limited to plants. In 1909, he and his son James wrote The Catalogue of Canadian Birds, the first major work on the bird fauna of Canada since that of Sir John Richardson in 1851. Macoun died in Sidney, British Columbia on July 18, 1920.

Diane Secoy