New light on the origins of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club

Randy Boswell


The history of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC) is a subject of considerable interest given the organization’s great longevity and significant influence on the evolution of Canadian science and conservation. A probe of 19th-century Ottawa newspapers has led to the proper identification of a little known precursor organization — the “Ottawa Naturalists’ Field Club” — that appears to have significantly strengthened a weak link in the otherwise unbroken chain of natural history investigation in Ottawa reaching back to the pre-Confederation era. This and additional findings suggest that Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt, while duly recognized as an important pioneer naturalist, played an even greater role than generally understood in the emergence of a robust natural history tradition in Canada’s capital and the eventual creation of the OFNC.

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