Where Peter Newman's best-selling trilogy captured the essence of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) as a business empire, Eighteenth-Century Naturalists of Hudson Bay presents the scientific achievements of the company's early employees, drawing largely on materials in the HBC Winnipeg archives. C. Stuart Houston, Tim Ball, and Mary Houston make amends for two centuries of neglect of these collector-observers, showing that fur traders in isolated trading posts on Hudson Bay were involved in some of the earliest stirrings of science on the continent andd that the fur traders and Native people worked together in a remarkable symbiosis, beneficial to both parties.
The authors show that meteorologic data and weather information recorded at the HBC trading posts over two centuries provide the largest and longest consecutive series available anywhere in North America, one that can help us understand the mechanisms and amount of climate change. They demonstrate that Hudson Bay is the second largest site of new bird species named by Linnaeus and reproduce some of George Edwards' colour paintings of these new species. Six informative appendices reveal how the invaluable HBC archives were transferred from London, England, to Winnipeg, correct previous misinterpretations of the collaboration and relative contributions of Thomas Hutchins and Andrew Graham, use two centuries of HBC fur returns to demonstrate the ten-year hare and lynx cycles, tell how the swan trade almost extirpated the Trumpeter Swan, explain how the Canada Goose got its name before there was a Canada, and offer an extensive list of eighteenth-century Cree names for birds, mammals, and fish. Informative tables list the eighteenth-century surgeons at York Factory and give names and dates for the annual supply ships.
"This wonderful book is a labour of love – it calls attention to a forgotten chapter in Canadian history by reviewing the accomplishments of a handful of men associated with the Hudson Bay Company, and it does that superbly. It is a work of great scholarship."
– J.R. Jehl, Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute
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Throughout his medical career C. Stuart Houston has studied the history of medicine on the prairies, contributed articles to appropriate journals, and served on the executive of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine. He is the author of numerous books, including To the Arctic by Canoe, 1819-1821: The Journal and Paintings of Robert Hood; Arctic Ordeal: The Journal of John Richardson, Surgeon-Naturalist with Franklin, 1820-1822; and Arctic Artist: The Journal and Paintings of George Back, Midshipman with Franklin, 1819-1822.
Tim Ball, a retired University of Winnipeg geography professor and manager of Dr T.F. Ball Consultants Ltd., environmental consulting, obtained one of the first doctorates in climatology. Co-author of Fundamentals of Physical Geography and a contributor to Climate Since AD 1500, he is a sought-after speaker and writer on climate change. His monthly column, Weather Talk, in Country Guide, explains the complexities of climate for farmers.
Mary Houston is the mother of three medical professors and a mathematician, grandmother of nine, and author or co-author of eighty-one papers about ornithology and bird banding.