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Born: Saint John, NB

Lifespan: 1837- 1923

Occupation: Public servant,Canadian expert on Cambrian paleontology.

Discoveries: Discovered the oldest fossil bearing rocks known in North America and Europe, found more than 350 new kinds of fossils.

Monumental Memorial: Mount Matthew in northern New Brunswick is named after him.

George Fredric Matthew

George Frederic Matthew (1837-1923) was born in Saint John, NB. His formal education ended after grammar school and, at the age of fifteen, he entered public service in the Saint John Custom House. He stayed there most of his life, eventually becoming Chief Clerk and Surveyor. However, George Matthew had an extraordinary interest in geology and, in 1857, helped found the Steinhammer Club. This club was formed by a group of young men, none yet twenty years old, who were interested in learning about the rocks and fossils of the Saint John area. Sir William Dawson became interested in the activities of the Steinhammer Club, in particular the work of Matthew and his friend Fred Hartt (1840-1878), another famous New Brunswicker who later became director of the Geological Survey of Brazil and the first professor of geology at Cornell University in the United States. Matthew and Hartt provided information and specimens that Dawson used in his studies of New Brunswick. Dawson, as Canada's foremost geologist, likely exerted considerable influence on Matthew, who soon began assisting the Geological Survey of Canada.

In addition to preparing map reports for the Survey, Matthew became the Canadian expert on Cambrian paleontology, and collections from British Columbia, Cape Breton and Newfoundland were sent to him for examination.

The varied geology of Saint John provided Matthew with a lifetime of research. As part of his extensive studies on Cambrian fossils, Matthew became one of the first paleontologists to recognize the early appearance of small shelly fossils. He also published the first scientific description of a Precambrian stromatolite. Many of the fossils collected by Matthew can still be found at the New Brunswick Museum.

In 1882, when the Royal Society of Canada selected charter members to represent the geological and biological sciences, George Matthew was among them. He received many honours, including, in 1923, the prestigious Murchison Medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

From The Last Billion Years [a book by the Atlantic Geoscience Society at the Geological Survey of Canada (Atlantic)]

    Last Modified: 2004-12-10