Schuh’s Annotated Bio-Bibliography

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GESNER, Abraham.

(1797 – 1864)

(Born: Cornwallis Township, Nova Scotia, 1797; Died: Halifax, Nova Scotia, 29 April 1864) Canadian geologist.

Early on Gesner developed an interest in geology. After he studied medicine in London, he returned to Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, setting up a medical practice and in his spare time he collected fossils from the area. It is said Gesner often gathered specimens on his way to and from house calls, and built up an extensive collection. In 1838, he became the first government geologist in a British colony when appointed Provincial Geologist of New Brunswick. In an effort to combat a serious personal debt, in April 1842 he opened the first museum in Canada, "Gesner Museum", where he charged admission to view his private collection. His creditors eventually took over his collection in lieu of payment, however. In 1890, it was acquired by the Natural History Society of New Brunswick and added to the New Brunswick Natural History Museum in St John as the core of the museum. Gesner then immigrated to the United States where he developed and patented a process for manufacturing kerosene, for which he is still famous. Gesner was invited back to Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, as a professor of chemistry, but died shortly thereafter.

Biographical references: ABA: I 606, 143-152. Appleton Cyclopedia of American Biography. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Drake, Dictionary of American Biography, 1872. Poggendorff: 3, 510. WBI.

1. English, 1836.
Remarks | On The | Geology And Mineralogy | Of | Nova Scotia | By Abraham Gesner, Esq. | [rule] | [...7 lines of text...] | [rule] | Halifax, Nova Scotia. | [ornament] | Printed By Gossip And Coade, Times Office, Halifax, Nova Scotia. | 1836.

8°: xl, 272, [2] p., one folded lithographed frontispiece, one folded handcolored geological map and one lithographed plate.

Contents: [2 pgs], Title page, verso blank.; [i-ii], Dedication to Viscount Valentia, signed Abraham Gesner, 1836.; iii-xxii, "Preface."-signed Abraham Gesner, July, 1836.; [xiv]-xxviii, "Introduction | To The | Study Of Geology."; xxix-xl, "Introduction | To The | Study Of Mineralogy."; [1 pg], Blank.; [Map, folding.].; [1]-265, Text.; [266], "Errata."; [267]-272, "Index."

Scarce. The first serious and methodical survey of the geological and mineralogical resources of Nova Scotia. Gesner, a surgeon who wrote on geological subjects, did much if not all of the footwork for this study himself. Gesner includes both commercial subjects such as clays and coals, granites, marbles, copper and such, and also semi-precious stones and gems. The nicely colored map was not originally planned for- "It was not intended, when the Prospectus of this Work was written, to give a Geological Map of the Province, or any pictorial illustrations of its scenery; but from the general support the book has received, a map has been prepared, at a considerable additional expense.". He divides the country into four districts and discusses each in turn, as well as providing a concise introduction to the sciences of geology and mineralogy, including explanations of the competing theories of this still-developing field. Plates: frontispiece of Farrsboro as seen from the harbor, a folding colored map of Nova Scotia, with the tipped-in explanation; a lithographed plate of Cape Split.

Bibliographical references: BL [microfiches no. 35387]. NUC. NYPL Catalog. Roller & Goodman, Catalogue, 1976: 1, 456.