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A History of Pacific Biological Station

Reverend George William Taylor (1854-1912)

Photo: Reverend George William TaylorGeorge William Taylor was born at Derby, England, in 1854, and came to Vancouver Island on a visit in 1882. Deciding to remain in Canada, Taylor found a vocation with the Church of England, in which he was ordained as a priest in 1886. Reverend Taylor served parishes in Victoria, Ottawa, Nanaimo, Gabriola, Cedar, and Wellington. In 1885, he married Elizabeth Ann Williams, Headmistress of Victoria's Central Girls School. He and Bessie had four children before her death in February 1895, from complications in childbirth.

Although trained as a mining engineer, Taylor's consuming interest was natural history. His early curiosity with nature's secrets grew and eventually compelled him to turn away from mining. He obtained a position with the Museum in Derby, where his abilities as a collector and correspondent soon earned him a reputation as a conchologist. While his favourite area of study was shells, he also was an accomplished collector of insects. In 1880 or 1881 he was offered a senior position at the British Museum, but the prospect of having to give up the adventure of field work and collecting trips provided a drab outlook. He declined the opportunity and decided to visit a cousin in Canada.

Taylor continued his insect and shell collecting activities on Vancouver Island. In addition, he began to publish the results of his studies. In 1884, his first Canadian paper, "Notes on the entomology of Vancouver Island," appeared in the Annals of the Entomological Society of Ontario. Before his death, Taylor published more than 50 papers on various aspects of entomology, conchology, and marine biology.

Taylor's early interest in shells led him to more general study of marine biology. His collecting activities broadened to include a wide variety of invertebrates and fish. The 1895 and 1899 papers listing Pacific marine molluscs were joined in 1912 by a list of decapod crustaceans, and a list of shore fishes was nearly completed before his death.

Taylor's collections and opinions were recognized and respected by colleagues around the world. He corresponded widely and exchanged specimens with other authorities. Several species of fish and molluscs were named in his honour. In 1887, he was appointed the Honorary Provincial Entomologist for British Columbia. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1894. He served as president of the Entomological Society of British Columbia during its formative years, and was the first president of the British Columbia Academy of Sciences in 1910.

In 1905, the Reverend Taylor was appointed to the Dominion British Columbia Fisheries Commission. During the course of the hearings and deliberations of this Commission, he became convinced that systematic scientific investigations of the marine fauna of British Columbia would stimulate the Province's fisheries. In May 1907, he submitted "A plea for a Biological Station on the Pacific Coast" to the annual meeting of the Royal Society of Canada. Within months, the federal government approved the establishment of a Pacific Biological Station, and appointed Taylor as curator. After a site was chosen at Departure Bay, construction was carried out under Taylor's supervision. The building was ready for operations in the spring of 1908. Taylor's large scientific and extensive zoological collections were well used by visiting investigators during the early years.

Unfortunately, Taylor's health deteriorated, and in August 1912, he died of a massive heart attack. He is buried in the Nanaimo Cemetery.

Career Highlights

1854 - Born Derby, England
1882 - Arrived Vancouver Island
1886 - Ordained Church of England
1887 - Appointed Honorary B.C. Provincial Entomologist
1894 - Elected Fellow Royal Society of Canada
1902 - President, British Columbia Entomological Society
1905 - 1907- Member of Dominion British Columbia Fisheries Commission
1907 - Called for establishment of a Biological Station on the Pacific Coast
1907 - 1908 - Built laboratory building at Departure Bay for federal government
1908 - Appointed Curator, Pacific Biological Station
1910 - President British Columbia Academy of Science
1912 - Died Nanaimo