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William Francis Ganong

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Title: William Francis Ganong  
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Subject: Botanical Society of America, Ganong, Maliseet Vocabulary, The Botanic Garden of Smith College, Canadian cartographers
Collection: 1864 Births, 1941 Deaths, Canadian Botanists, Canadian Cartographers, Canadian Historians, Canadian Male Writers, Canadian People of Huguenot Descent, Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, Ganong Family, Harvard University Alumni, Harvard University Faculty, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Alumni, People from Saint John, New Brunswick, People of United Empire Loyalist Descent, Persons of National Historic Significance (Canada), Smith College Faculty, University of New Brunswick Alumni
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William Francis Ganong

William Francis Ganong
Sons of James H. Ganong, 1895; Walter and Edwin (standing), William and Arthur (seated)
Born (1864-02-19)February 19, 1864
Carleton, New Brunswick
Died September 7, 1941(1941-09-07) (aged 77)
Saint John, New Brunswick
Resting place St. Stephen Rural Cemetery
Residence Northampton, Massachusetts
Education University of New Brunswick, Harvard University,
University of Munich
Occupation Botanist, historian, cartographer, educator, author
Religion Protestant
Spouse(s) Jane Carmen (1863-1920) (m. 1888–1920)
Anna Hobbet (1895-1977)
Children William Francis Ganong, Jr., Ann Ganong Seidler
Parent(s) James Harvey Ganong &
Susan E. Brittain

William Francis Ganong, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S.C., (19 February 1864 - 7 September 1941) was a Canadian botanist, historian and cartographer. His botany career was spent mainly as a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. In his private life he contributed to the historical and geographical understanding of his native New Brunswick.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career in botany 2
  • Historian and cartographer 3
  • Honours 4
  • Publications 5
    • Botany 5.1
    • History and geography (partial list) 5.2
  • References and further reading 6
  • On-line publications 7
  • Notes 8

Early life and education

He was born in Carleton (now West

  1. ^ "William Francis Ganong’s field trips around the province of New Brunswick". Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ "History". The Botanic Garden of Smith College Northampton. April 30, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ Department of Botany Records, 1892-1966 at
  4. ^ Who Was Who in Name Study at
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hamilton, William B. "Folklore: Ghostly Encounters of the Northumberland Kind". The Island Magazine: 33–35. 
  7. ^ William Francis Ganong (1921). A Textbook of Botany for Colleges. MacMillan Co. p. 604. 


  • Ten publications (from "Our Roots")
  • Map of St Croix Island
  • Virtual tour: William Francis Ganong’s field trips around the province of New Brunswick (1895-1910) Photos and maps.

On-line publications

  • Story of the Smith College Botanic Garden
  • Ganong Fonds, Universite du Moncton
  • Smith College Archives
  • Brief biography by Alan Rayburn
  • Maritime MenRuby Cusack article,
  • Three Remarkable Maritimers by Allison Mitcham
  • William Francis Ganong Memorial, ed. J.C. Webster (Saint John: New Brunswick Museum, 1942)
  • William Francis Ganong: Regional Historian, Mary Jo Sanger, M.A. Thesis, History, University of Maine, 1980.
  • The History and Development of the New Brunswick Museum W. Austin Squires (Saint John, 1945).
  • "W.F. Ganong, A.H. Clark and the Historical Geography of Maritime Canada", Graeme Wynn Acadiensis, X, 2 (Spring 1981).

References and further reading

  • A Genealogy of the New Brunswick Branch of the Descendants of Thomas Ganong (1893)
  • "A Monograph on the Place - Nomenclature of the Province of New Brunswick", in Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada (1896)
  • "A Monograph of Historic Sites in the Province of New Brunswick", in Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Section II (1899)
  • "Additions and Corrections to Monographs on the Place - Nomenclature, Cartography, Historic Sites, Boundaries and Settlement - origins of the Province of New Brunswick", Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada (1906).
  • "The Identity of Plants and Animals mentioned by the Early Voyages to Eastern Canada and Newfoundland" in Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada (1909)
  • The Description and Natural History of the Coast of North America(Acadia) by Nicolas Denys Translator (Toronto, 1908)
  • le Clercq: New Relation of Gaspesia Editor (Toronto, 1910)
  • An Organization of the Scientific Investigation of the Indian Place-Nomenclature of the Maritime Provinces of Canada, (3 volumes 1911-13)
  • "Ste. Croix (Dochet) Island A Monograph", from Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Second series - 1902-1903, Volume VIII, Section II. Edited by Susan Brittain Ganong, B.Sc., LL.D., Monographic Series No. 3, The New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B. (1945).
  • The History of Miscou and Shippegan (1946)
  • Champlain’s Island: An Expanded Edition of Ste. Croix (Dochet) Island (1945, Reprinted 2004) ISBN 0-919326-57-9
  • The History of Caraquet and Pokemouche, Revised and Enlarged from the Author's Manuscript Notes, edited by Susan Brittain Ganong. (Historical Studies No.6. New Brunswick Museum (1948)
  • The history of Miscou, Tracadie, Pokemouche, Caraquet, Tabusintac, [Shippegan], Neguac and Burnt Church: Settlements in the Province of New Brunswick
  • Catalogue of the Maps in the Collection of the Geographic Board, (Ottawa: January, 1949)
  • Crucial Maps in the Early Cartography and Place-nomenclature of the Atlantic Coast of Canada (Royal Society of Canada and the University of Toronto Press, 1964).
  • A Monograph of the Evolution of the Boundaries of the Province of New Brunswick

History and geography (partial list)

  • The Teaching Botanist (Macmillan, 1899)
  • A Laboratory Manual for Plant Physiology (1901)
  • The Living Plant (1913)
  • A textbook of botany for colleges (1917 and later editions)[7]



  • PhD, University of New Brunswick, 1898
  • LLD, University of New Brunswick, 1920
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
  • William Ganong Hall, Science Building on the Saint John Campus of the University of New Brunswick is named after him.
  • Ganong Mountain in northern New Brunswick was named for him in 1901.


Ganong's second marriage was to Anna Hobbet from Iowa. The couple had two children, William Francis Ganong, Jr., a renowned physiologist, and Ann Ganong Seidler, professor of speech theory (now retired) and children's author. Ganong died at his summer home outside Saint John in 1941. He was 77.

William F. Ganong’s efforts also formed a substantial basis for the establishment of the New Brunswick Museum and archives.

As a scientist, Ganong brought a special quality to the study of New Brunswick history, which featured an emphasis on map-based studies and in determining the exact location of key historic sites. He actually went to the places he wrote about. As a translator and editor of the 17th-century Acadian narratives of Nicolas Denys and Father Chrétien Le Clercq he became a foremost scholar of the Acadian period. He frequently contributed articles on Samuel de Champlain to publications of the New Brunswick Historical Society, the New Brunswick Magazine and Acadiensis. In addition to document-based research and translation, Ganong prepared maps, took photographs and gave slide presentations. He often collaborated with others. One frequent collaborator was Dr. John Clarence Webster, for whom he prepared numerous maps and other contributions. He also took a great interest in the international border between New Brunswick and Maine. Because of this interest and expertise he was asked to take part in the cross-border tercentennial celebrations on the St. Croix River in 1904. In 1918, Ganong completed the translation of Volume III of Champlain's Voyages, part of a major publication of Champlain's writings by the Champlain Society.[5] He was also the first to pose a scientific explanation for the often sighted Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait suggesting it was an electrical illusion.[6]

He acquired a working knowledge of the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq languages, and with that understanding and consultation with linguists and native historians, he undertook an investigation of the aboriginal place names in the Maritime Provinces, publishing a series of six articles in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada between 1911 and 1928. In 1889 he presented a paper on the cartography of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence from the 1530s to 1604. Later, in the 1930s, he published an additional nine articles in the Transactions on what he termed the crucial maps in the early cartography and place-nomenclature of the region. The articles were drawn together and published in book form by the University of Toronto Press in 1964. His work on place-nomenclature is still widely referenced. In his explorations, he also had a chance to name several geographical features in the largely unexplored central and northern parts of New Brunswick, including Mount Carleton, the highest summit in the province, which he named after the first Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, Thomas Carleton. Another mountain to the north of Mount Carleton was named for Ganong in 1901 by his friend and naturalist Mauran Furbish.[4]

Ganong undertook historical work during his teaching career. In summers, he would return to New Brunswick to study and document the historical geography of the province. Among his surveys were St. Croix Island, site of Champlain's first settlement in North America in 1604.

Historian and cartographer

He was elected President of the Botanical Society of America in 1907.

By authoring several books including The Teaching Botanist, A Laboratory Manual for Plant Physiology, The Living Plant, and A Textbook of Botany for Colleges, Ganong was able to establish and maintain an international reputation in botany. Under his administration, Smith's Botany department reached a peak in student enrollment, size of staff, and number of courses. He ensured that the range and quality of equipment available to students was high, and the department was able to attain a positive academic reputation. Enrollment in the introductory elective class peaked at 182 in 1926.[3] Dr. Ganong retired from Smith College in 1932.

The greenhouses at Smith College date from Ganong's tenure there beginning in 1894.

After graduating from Harvard, Ganong was appointed an assistant instructor in botany there. He stayed at Harvard for a few years until May 1894, when he accepted an appointment as Professor of Botany at Smith College. It was a position he would fill for 36 years. He was also director of the Botanic Garden at Smith. Ganong and his head gardener, Edward J. Canning, were responsible for developing the Garden, which had been laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1893. Ganong and Canning expanded and revised Olmsted's planting specifications to make the entire campus an arboretum, and they reworked the herbaceous beds as a "systematics garden" after the Engler-Prantl classification system. The outdoor environment at Smith thus became (and remains) a place of learning for students of botany and horticulture.[2]

Career in botany

He attended the University of New Brunswick where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and his Masters degree in 1886. The next year, he went to Boston where in 1887, he received an A.B. from Harvard University. He obtained a doctorate in biology from the University of Munich in 1894 and published two papers in the German language. It was probably at Harvard that he met Jean Murray Carmen, sister of his friend and fellow Harvard student, New Brunswick poet Bliss Carman. They married in 1888. The marriage lasted thirty-two years until her death in 1920. They had no children.


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