This Week in History
Elkanah Billings and His Passion For Prehistory
For the week of Monday April 30, 2007
On May 5, 1820, Elkanah Billings became the fourth of seven children born to Braddish and Lamira. The Billings family established their homestead in present-day Ottawa, along the Ottawa River. Billings House, completed in 1829, served as the family’s home into the 1960s. It was here that Elkanah spent his earliest days.
By then, Billings had captured the attention of Sir William Logan. Logan was an acclaimed expert of Canadian geology whose exceptional work led him to become the first Canadian-born inductee to the Royal Society of London in 1851. He was also the first director of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and was responsible for hiring Billings in 1856 to be the survey paleontologist. Billings, who was to study fossils uncovered by the GSC, identified more than 500 new species of fossils by 1863.
Billings died at age 56 in Montréal. To honour his achievements as a father of Canadian paleontology, the Paleontology Division of the Geological Association of Canada created the Billings Medal. The childhood home of this trailblazing Canadian paleontologist, Billings House National Historic Site, exists today as a museum.
For his pioneering work in the geological sciences, Sir William Edmond Logan became a National Historic Person in 1967. To learn more about Logan, please visit "Married to the Rocks" in the This Week in History Archives.
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