#714 A naturalist on the North Pacific
John Scouler (c. 1804-1871) Scottish Naturalist: A Life, with Two Voyages
by E. Charles Nelson
Glasgow: Glasgow Natural History Society, 2014
£11.00 (U.K.) / 9780956529510
Reviewed by Robert M. Galois
On 25 July, 1824, John Scouler, a young Scottish naturalist, boarded the Hudson’s Bay Company’s (HBC) brig William and Ann, at Gravesend, outward bound for the Northwest coast of America. There must have been a good deal of anticipation as this voyage marked an innovation for the HBC. Not just a supply ship for the Company’s posts on the Columbia, the captain was charged with determining “whether there is any good Roadstead or Harbour in the Portland Canal or between it and the Columbia, and if there are any and what Rivers communicating with the Interior, and how and by whom the Coasts are inhabited.” These instructions were a function of the geo-political situation on the Northwest Coast – the Russian Ukase of 1821 and the British response which culminated in the Anglo-Russian treaty of 1825. The Company was an important player in these imperial machinations as it sought to find a northern route to link its interior post with the coast within British territory. For John Scouler, the voyage, as Charles Nelson notes, would transform his life.
Born at Kilbarchan, near Glasgow in 1804, into a “middling” family background, Scouler received private schooling before attending the University of Glasgow. This was supplemented, at age 19, with a year’s study in Paris. During his time at Glasgow, Scouler (pronounced “scooler”) encountered William J. Hooker, then professor of botany, whose patronage would have an important role in Scouler’s subsequent career. Indeed, Scouler’s presence on the William and Ann was the result of a recommendation by Hooker who, to some extent, occupied a place similar to that formerly occupied by Joseph Banks as the focal point for British maritime “exploration” and the collection of botanical specimens and information. Moreover, Scouler was accompanied by David Douglas, another Scot benefitting from the patronage of Hooker, but employed by the Horticultural Society of London and given a free passage to the Columbia by the HBC.
Shortly before embarking, Scouler encountered another member of the network of Scottish naturalists which he had now entered. In London he met with Archibald Menzies, who probably knew more about the Northwest Coast than anyone else in the United Kingdom at that time, having spent a total of five seasons (1787-8 with Colnett, and 1792-4 with Vancouver) traversing the region and collecting information, specimens, and “curiosities.” In addition, the William and Ann was provided with copies of the published accounts of Dixon, Portlock, and Vancouver. In short the expedition reflected the ongoing interpenetration of science, commerce, and empire and a renewal of interest in the Northwest Coast.
The voyage, as Nelson points out, is surprisingly well-documented. Accounts survive by Scouler (see his publications of 1826 and 1827, listed below, mss), David Douglas (extract published in 1836), Henry Hanwell (captain of the William and Ann), and Alexander Mackenzie of the HBC.  After rounding the Horn and calling at the Galapagos, the William and Ann arrived at the mouth of the Columbia river on 7 April, 1825. Here Scouler and Douglas separated. The former, joined by Alexander Mackenzie on the William and Ann, sailed north, outside Vancouver Island to Haida Gwaii, calling at Skedans/Skidegate, before heading across Hecate Strait to Observatory Inlet. After a stay of over three weeks the William and Ann returned south, calling at Nootka Sound and visiting the southern reaches of the Salish Sea, then returning to the mouth of the Columbia. There followed a sojourn of some six weeks “collecting,” before Scouler decided to return to London on the William and Ann. He brought with him “many articles of curiosity, such as the dresses, arms, domestic utensils, skulls of the natives, and a well-preserved mummy.”
The voyage of the William and Ann was a disappointment for HBC, at least in terms of geo-political objectives and the quality of information gathered; it was not until 1831 that the company established a presence on the north coast, in the form of Fort Nass, although not located on Observatory Inlet. However, the HBC , with the “Curiosities” collected during the trip of the William and Ann along the coast, did establish a small museum in London. As Ted Binnema has shown, this was part of the Company’s broader and ongoing interest in “scientific” activity.
With his professional career well-launched, Scouler embarked on another collecting trip, this time to India. On returning to Scotland, Scouler was appointed, in 1829, as Professor of Mineralogy and Natural History at Anderson University, and curator of the Andersonian Museum in Glasgow. Five years later, in 1834, he moved to Dublin to accept a position in Mineralogy and Geology at the Royal Dublin Society. This was not entirely a happy period, and Scouler returned to Glasgow in 1853 or 54, where he remained until his death in 1871.
Although the trip to the Northwest Coast was a relatively brief interlude, Scouler maintained his interest in natural history and, through the “naturalist” network, contact with the Northwest Coast. Douglas, Scouler, and Menzies met up again after the return of Douglas to England (three “West Americans” under the same roof in 1828) and the network expanded with the return of Douglas to the area in 1830, and the departure of Meredith Gairdner and W.F. Tolmie for the Columbia in September 1832. Tolmie, from Inverness, knew Scouler prior to his signing up for employment by the HBC as a “surgeon;” he would be of particular importance in maintaining Scouler’s connection with, and publications about, the Northwest Coast. Like Scouler before him, Tolmie conferred with Archibald Menzies before embarking for the Northwest Coast.
Scouler corresponded with these men over the next few years both directly and indirectly, through Hooker. Moreover, when Tolmie visited England and Scotland in 1841-42, he met up with Scouler. By this means Scouler continued to obtain both information and specimens of various kinds — human, zoological, and botanical. For example, Douglas in 1832 made a collections of the bones of sea otter, wolves, foxes, deer, and panther [cougar] for Scouler; and Tolmie, in 1839, sent the following items to Scouler: “2 boxes fm [from] NWC, 3 skulls do [ditto], Pipes & Dishes & mask, Boots – similar to Esquimaux for Male and female, Cock of the Plains, Quail from California.” Art historian Robin Wright adds that this was likely the date at which Tolmie forwarded a number of Haida argillite carvings to Scouler. As late as 1871, not long before his death, Scouler wrote to Tolmie to get prehistoric remains for the Andersonian Museum in Glasgow.
Apart from the journal of the trip on the William and Ann, Scouler published four papers about the Northwest Coast: two were brief, two more substantial. They dealt with the physical environment and the First Nations of the region. Historian Richard Mackie has pointed to the import of these contributions, noting that the “the Scottish botanists David Douglas and John Scouler” were the “first people to identify” the novelty of the Northwest Coast, in both human and environmental terms when compared to regions of similar latitude further east in North America. A contemporary of Scouler thought that his work provided a corrective for the extent to which “ideas of the Aboriginal American” had been formed “upon the Algonkins and Iroquois exclusively.” Even so, within the “naturalist” paradigm of the 1820s, First Nations were viewed as part of the environment.
Of the brief papers, one dealt with the climate of the Northwest coast, noting “the uncommon mildness of its climate when compared with that of the eastern side of the continent in the same parallel of latitude.” The second short paper illustrated the contemporary interest in the shaping of crania, which Scouler described as a “most interesting process in respect to Natural History.” This was after he had “carried away from the Columbia River, the preserved skulls of two Chenooks”. Meredith Gairdner, one of Scouler’s successors, followed this up by appropriating the skull of Chinook Chief Concomly, which he sent to John Richardson in England. Edward Belcher, over a decade later, commented on the hostility that such actions aroused.
In the two longer papers, Scouler picked up the themes of the particularity and internal diversity of the Northwest Coast region, but turned his attention to the Indigenous population: in particular their “physical character, manners and customs, and on the affinities of their languages.” The last of these was, arguably the most significant portion of the paper, as it contained vocabularies — or word lists — of seventeen First Nations, plus a further seven from California. When published, it provided a valuable addition to Albert Gallatin’s 1836 “Synoposis,” filling in the “deficiency” of information about First Nations “bordering on the Pacific, between the sixtieth and forty-eighth degrees of latitude.” It also demonstrated “the great variety of languages spoken in the narrow district included between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific” and the contrast with the “few but widespread dialects, spoken between Hudson’s Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of the linguistic information for Scouler’s paper was provided by W.F. Tolmie; the California section came from Irish botanist Thomas Coulter, who had worked with David Douglas in 1831-2. The paper has been described as marking the beginning of systematic collection of linguistic data in the Northwest Coast culture area. Tolmie, a part of the naturalist network linking the Northwest Coast to the United Kingdom in the early and mid nineteenth century, also contributed, through George Gibbs, to the linguistic collections of the Smithsonian Institution. These, together with the word lists of Horatio Hale, “proved invaluable to the numerous scholars in the eastern United States and in Europe who were interested in classifying the languages of America,”according to Dale Kincade . Later, having retired from the HBC, Tolmie collaborated with George Dawson to produce “Comparative Vocabularies of the Indian Tribes of British Columbia.” Published under the auspices of the Canadian Geological Survey, the paper was accompanied by a map showing the “Distribution of the Indian tribes in British Columbia.”
In the second paper, Scouler provided a preliminary “classification of the various tribes found between Behring’s Straits and the Columbia River, and included between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.” In addition to providing a brief description of sixteen component groups, Scouler again points to the much greater diversity in the above region as compared to the area east of the Rocky Mountains. The paper again includes reference to the valuable information received from Tolmie, concerning “the fairs held at Naas” (the oolachan fishery where Nisga’a, Tsimshian, Tlingit, and Haida peoples assembled annually), as well as early information of hamatsa ceremonies among the Heiltsuk people.
Nelson’s book contains a wide variety of illustrations of contemporary and historic specimens. Many are sparkling but the maps could be clearer. The volume provides information on the dispersal and disposition of his collections — botanical, zoological, and ethnographic — within the UK as well as New York and Paris; a list of plants and animals named after Scouler; a full bibliography of Scouler’s publications; and an annotated version of Scouler’s journal of the trip to the Northwest Coast. The last-mentioned was published in 1905 in the Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society; Nelson’s version corrects some errors and omissions as well as providing extensive notes.
As befits a volume published by a Natural History Society, the botanical information is exemplary, although Nelson is less secure in dealing with ethnographic and historical matters. The unidentified “yakultax” are of course the Lekwiltok; the work of Howay and Malloy provides information on vessels that Scouler met in the Straits of Juan de Fuca; and surely some reference to the literature on disease and demography should accompany Scouler’s reference to signs of an earlier smallpox outbreak (see the work of Robert Boyd, Cole Harris, and Elizabeth Fenn).
Overall, John Scouler (c. 1804-1871) Scottish Naturalist is a welcome addition to the intellectual and natural history of nineteenth century British Columbia.
A graduate of the University of Exeter, the University of Calgary, and Simon Fraser University, Robert M. (Bob) Galois is a Vancouver-based researcher and historical geographer and author of three books, all with UBC Press: Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw Settlements, 1775-1920: A Geographical Analysis and Gazetteer (1994); Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed (with Neil Sterritt) (1999); A Voyage to the North West Side of America: The Journals of James Colnett, 1786-89 (2008). Galois contributed plates to all three volumes of the Historical Atlas of Canada.
Publications Concerning the Northwest Coast by John Scouler:
“Notice respecting Mr. Scouler’s and Mr. Douglas’s recent voyage to the North-west coast of America,” Edinburgh Journal of Science 1826 (5): 378-80.
“Account of a Voyage to Madeira, Brazil, Juan Fernandez, and the Gallipagos Islands, performed in 1824 and 1825, with a view of examining their Natural History. Communicated by the Author.” Edinburgh Journal of Science 1826 (5): 195-214.
“Account of a Voyage to Madeira, Brazil, Juan Fernandez, and the Gallipagos Islands, performed in 1824 and 1825, with a view of examining their Natural History. Communicated by the Author.” Edinburgh Journal of Science 1827 (6): 51-73.
“Account of a Voyage to Madeira, Brazil, Juan Fernandez, and the Gallipagos Islands, performed in 1824 and 1825, with a view of examining their Natural History. Communicated by the Author.” Edinburgh Journal of Science 1827 (6): 228-236.
“On the Temperature of the North West Coast of America.” Edinburgh Journal of Science 1827 (6): 251-3.
“Remarks on the form of the Skull of the North American Indians.” Zoological Journal 1829 (4): 304-8.
“Observations on the Indigenous Tribes of the N. W. Coast of America.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 11: 215-61.
“On the Indian Tribes inhabiting the North-West Coast of America.” Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 1846 (vol. 41: 168-192)
“On the Indian tribes inhabiting the north-west coast of America.” Journal of the Ethnological Society. London, 1848 (1): 228-52.
 HBCA, A 6/21, 12-13, G&C to J.D. Cameron, 22 Jul, 1824. When written Cameron was stationed at Ft George; by the time of arrival the new headquarters at Ft. Vancouver was nearing completion. John McLoughlin, who had replaced Cameron when the William and Ann, added his own instructions for the northern trip: “You will likewise endeavour to find out what articles are most in demand, the best season to meet the natives on the Coast, the different kind of furs to be obtained, the number of inhabitants. Good situations for Building Forts, soil, timber & harbours” (HBCA, B 223/b/1: 27-28, McLoughlin to Alex. Mackenzie, n.d. [24? May, 1825).
 The HBC had reached the upper Skeena in 1822 and pushed west over next few seasons, largely through the activities of William Brown. However, little was accomplished and the Company continued to believe that the Simpson (i.e. Skeena) River flowed directly west from Babine Lake to reach the sea in Observatory Inlet. See John Arrowsmith map, British North America, 1842).
 A summary biography is available at: https://universitystory.gla.ac.uk/biography/?id=WH16202&type=P
 Of the Colnett voyage Eric Groves has estimated that Menzies brought back about “one hundred dried specimens.” Of these, the largest portion went to Joseph Banks (ending up in the British Museum), others went to Sir J.E. Smith (ending up in the Linnean Society of London); some Menzies kept himself (ending up at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh), and some eventually ended up at Oxford. The specimens, together with seeds and some sketches, came from the Isla de los Estados, the Northwest coast, the Hawaiian Islands and Sumatra. J.C.H. King has suggested that six or seven artifacts, from the Northwest coast and the Hawaiian Islands, were given to the British Museum, although the vagaries of time and labelling preclude certainty.
 HBCA, A 6/21, 15, G&C to Hanwell, 22 Jul, 1824. In addition, Copies of the Russian voyages by Langsdorf (2 vols) and Lisiansky (1 vol.) and a Map of North America were to be delivered at Columbia river for the section of the voyage to the northern coast.
 A brief “Notice” of the voyage, based on information provided by Scouler, was published of the voyage was published in 1826, followed by Scouler’s own account, in two parts (Edinburgh Journal of Science, 5: 378-80; 6: 51-73 and 195-214. Sections of Douglas’s account were not published in 1836; the accounts of Hanwell and Mackenzie are found in the HBCA.
 “Notice respecting Mr. Scouler’s and Mr. Douglas’s recent voyage to the North-west coast of America.” Edinburgh Journal of Science 5: 378-80.
 HBCA, A 6/21, 101-102d, G&C to McLoughlin, 20 Sep, 1826. The Governor and Committee informed McLoughlin that “any interesting specimens of natural history which may be collected should be sent home especially those which will not take up much room.”
 Binnema Ted (2014). ‘Enlightened Zeal’: the Hudson’s Bay Company and scientific networks, 1670-1870. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. John Richardson, in the introduction to the Fauna Boreali-Americana, reported benefitting from “frequent visits to the museum” and noted that the HBC had sent specimens secured from its “Columbia” posts to the Zoological Society and British Museum (Richardson 1829 (1): xviii-xix). George Simpson, after his visit to the coast in 1841 encouraged officers to procure both zoological specimens and Indigenous artefacts. John Work, in charge of Fort Simpson, sent eight birds, “principally small ones“ and “two carved stone bowls and 6 cups” between 1841 and 1843, as well as “specimens of five of the Indian languages Spoken on the coast and some Statistics relative to the Indians.”
 RBGA, DC/61/100, Douglas to W.J. Hooker, 17 June 1828. Robert Brown continued the tradition during the colonial period. See John Hayman (editor), Robert Brown and the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1989).
 UBCSC, Akrigg Papers, file 1 #14, Tolmie to J.D. Hooker, 7 Feb, 1869.
 RBGA, DC/63/442, Tolmie to W.J. Hooker, 29 Aug, 1842.
 Scouler also received “reptiles,” albeit not from the Northwest coast, from Thomas Drummond, another Scottish naturalist attached to the HBC at one time (RBGA. DC/61/83, Drummond to Hooker, 30 Apr, 1832).
 RBGA, DC/61/108, D. Douglas to W.J. Hooker, 23 Oct 1832; Tolmie 1963: 333.
 Robin Wright (2001: 157). Northern Haida Master Carvers. Seattle: University of Washington. Illustration fig. 3.42 has the annotation: “sent to Dr. Scouler in Paris by Dr. William Tolmie in 1839 (Musee de L’Homme, cat. No 1879.5/4.)”
 RBGA, DC/195/161, W.F. Tolmie to Joseph Dalton Hooker, 20 Feb 1872.
 Richard Somerset Mackie, Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997): 73; Scouler, ‘On the Temperature of the North-West Coast of America.’ Edinburgh Journal of Science 6: 251-3. This was based on data compiled by HBC officers at Fort George between 1821 and 1824.
 Latham, R.G. (1851: 245). The Ethnology of the British Colonies and Dependences. London: John van Voorst.
 David Douglas: “A sketch of a journey to the North-western parts of the continent of North America, during the years 1824, 5, 6, and 7.” Companion to the Botanical Magazine, 1836, vol. 2: 143.
 Ruby, Robert H. and Brown, John A. (1976: 195). The Chinook Indians: Traders of the Lower Columbia River. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press; Watson, Bruce M. (2010: 397). Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858. Kelowna: Centre for Social, Spatial and Economic Justice University of British Columbia, Okanagan; A.G. Harvey, “Chief Concomly’s Skull,” OHQ 1939: 164-5); Belcher, Edward (1843: vol. 1, 292-3). Narrative of a Voyage Round the World. London: Henry Colburn. Scouler did not take up phrenology, but Tolmie became a part of this “enthusiasm.” While in England he informed Hooker that had spent a day with Mr Watson at Thames Ditton and learnt a lot about phrenology;” he also attended a meeting of the British Phrenological Association (RBGA, DC/63/441, Tolmie to W.J. Hooker, 17 Nov 1841; DC/63/443, Tolmie to W.J. Hooker, 20 June 1842).
 “Observations on the Indigenous Tribes of the N. W. Coast of America,” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1841 11: 215-61. “On the Indian Tribes inhabiting the North-West Coast of America.” Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 1846 41: 168-192. Republished in Journal of the Ethnological Society, London, 1848 (1): 228-52.
 “A Synopsis of the Indian Tribes of North America.” Archaeologia Americana, vol. 2 (1836): 1-422. Scouler was aware of, and commented on Gallatin’s work (Scouler 1846: 184).
 Scouler 1846: 179-80.
 Coulter was an Irish botanist (1793-1843). Douglas communicated information about Coulter to Hooker and provided a letter of introduction for Coulter’s impending visit. Whether Douglas also informed Scouler about Coulter is not known, but the he had been integrated into the network and was in Dublin by 1837. Here, as Nelson (33) remarks, they “undoubtedly discussed” Indigenous languages (David Douglas: “A sketch of a journey to the North-western parts of the continent of North America, during the years 1824, 5, 6, and 7.” Companion to the Botanical Magazine, 1836, vol. 2: 151-3, Douglas to Hooker, 23 Oct 1832, from River Columbia; RBGA, DC/16/310, John Scouler to W.J Hooker, from Dublin, 13 May 1841).
 Kinkade, M. Dale, “History of research in Linguistics.” (1990: 98-9). In Suttles, W. (Ed.) (1990): Northwest Coast, Handbook of American Indians, vol. 7. Washington: Smithsonian Institution. Kinkade also added that “Tolmie’s transcriptions are rather impressionistic and not entirely consistent: they use only English spelling conventions insofar as they are applicable to Northwest Coast languages.” The editor of the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society added a note on this matter: “No attempt has been made to reduce these vocabularies to the system of orthography usually followed in this work, as it could not have been done correctly without oral communication. Dr. Scouler writes rapidly, and many of his letters are very doubtful” (Scouler 1841: 250).
 Tolmie, William F. and Dawson, George M. (1884). “Comparative Vocabularies of the Indian Tribes of British Columbia.” Montreal: Dawson Brothers.
 By 1839 Tolmie had personal experience of Ft. Vancouver, Ft. Nisqually, Ft. McLoughlin, Ft. Simpson, bracketing the coast from the Columbia to the Nass.
 Scouler’s ethnographic collection was sent to Paris. See Fig. **
 However, a preview of the original publication of the journal thought that Scouler was “much more careful in his zoological notes … [giving] a minute description of the external and internal organs of almost every new species of fish or bird he found, while he describes in detail but few flowers.” (A. Hemenway, “Botanists of the Oregon Country,” OHQ, 5 1904: 209).
 Boyd, Robert (1999). The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Disease and Population Decline among Northwest Indians, 1774-1874. Vancouver: UBC Press, and Seattle: University of Washington. Harris, R.C. (1994). “Voices of Disaster: Smallpox around the Strait of Georgia in 1782,” Ethnohistory 41 (4): 591-626. Fenn, Elizabeth (2001). Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82. New York: Hill and Wang.
The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.
Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie
The Ormsby Review is a journal service for serious coverage of B.C. books and authors, hosted by Simon Fraser University. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC
“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster