Profiles of Science and Society in the Maritimes Prior to 1914


283 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 0-919107-27-3
DDC 509.716





Edited by Paul A. Bogaard
Reviewed by Hannah Gay

Hannah Gay is a history professor at Simon Fraser University.


This collection of essays is testimony to the new interest in the
history of science in Canada. The essays are varied both in direction
and in quality. Bertram Macdonald attempts an overall picture of
scientific publication prior to 1914; he shows that while much science
focused on local natural resources, research of national and even
international interest grew from this work. Personal profiles of some of
the more successful and/or interesting scientists follow this opening
survey. Suzanne Zeller writes about George Lawson, who, as a professor
of chemistry and mineralogy at Dalhousie University (beginning in 1863),
extended botanical work begun in Canada. Two generations of botanists in
British North America had worked under the Hookers’ mentorship, and
Lawson’s work is viewed in this context. Roy Bishop writes
interestingly, if somewhat traditionally, on J.F.W. DesBarres, a gifted
and energetic scientist of the late eighteenth century, who made major
contributions to surveying, mapping, and astronomical observation in
Nova Scotia and elsewhere in eastern North America—an exceptional case
in what must have been a typical military/technical/science-oriented
career pattern of that era. Also included is an essay by Susan
Sheets-Pyenson on the Nova Scotia roots of Sir William Dawson, which
makes some interesting comments on the intellectual climate in Pictou.
Leslie Armour uses four case studies to examine some of the
philosophical approaches to science, especially its accommodation with
religion (illustrated further in two Baptist sermons reprinted here).

The book’s final section deals with the public profile of science,
with public policy on exploration, cartographic surveys, marine science,
agriculture, etc. Michael J. Smith discusses the promotion of sanitary
science in public schools, showing how teachers and physicians in the
Maritimes were following nineteenth-century trends in disease prevention
by keeping an eye on what was new in bacteriology, epidemiology, and
medical technologies (e.g., vaccination). In my view, the most
sophisticated of the essays is the final one, in which Martin Hewitt
explores the social milieu of Maritime science in the pre-professional

Overall, this is a useful collection of essays in what is a new field
of research.


“Profiles of Science and Society in the Maritimes Prior to 1914,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,