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© McCord Museum
Sir William Dawson, Montreal, QC, 1884
Wm. Notman & Son
1884, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

In the middle of the century, so as to introduce some changes in the institution, McGill University recruited a young palaeontologist, John William Dawson, as its principal (rector). As the Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia, Dawson had played an important role in modernizing this province's educational structure. He quickly adapted the Montreal university to the new economic context. Specialists who were knowledgeable about the latest developments in science and technology were required for building the railways, and for industrialization and urbanization. Dawson deplored the absence of a school to train engineers and surveyors, at a time when huge public works were underway, and plans for new territories had to be constantly drawn up. In this context, McGill University opened several departments and faculties from 1870 to 1900 with the purpose of preparing young Canadians to take up the challenges of the modern world.

Source : Big Cities, New Horizons [Web tour], by Robert Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal (see Links)


Photograph of Sir William Dawson (1820-1899) taken by the William Notman and Sons studio. It is an official photograph of the rector of McGill University, who donned his ceremonial gown for the occasion.


Dawson was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia. He moved to Montreal in 1855 where he died in 1899.


This portrait was taken when Dawson was rector of McGill University, from 1855 to 1893.


William Dawson, palaeontologist and educator, Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia (1850-1855), Rector of McGill University (1855-1893), played a leading role in the development of the sciences in Canada.

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