American Roots, British Invasion

The Province of Canada's decision to create a geological survey was inspired by the success of two different types of surveys done in the United States and Britain.

Map, GEOLOGICAL MAP OF CANADA, by William Logan, 1864

William Logan's "Geological Map of Canada," 1864

In America, most of the states had done their own surveys in the 1820s and 1830s looking for mineral resources and land suited for agriculture. Their findings generated a great deal of international interest. In the 1830s, the British government conducted a slightly different national survey of its own. It already had detailed maps of the land, and it sent scientists out to add geological information to show where the various types of rocks were located.

Although they were surveying the land differently, the surveys in Britain and the United States helped prove that both countries were rich in mineral resources. Canadians hoped that their survey would reveal similar resources. Inspired by the success of the American surveys, the main goal of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) was to find and publicize the colony's mineral wealth. Inspired by the success of the British survey, however, the members of the GSC also mapped the land and its geological formations. In the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) many parts of the colony had not been mapped. The few maps that existed were often not very detailed or reliable. Most early Canadian geologists made their own maps while they explored the land to see what riches it had to offer.