Elkanah Billings

Elkanah Billings, palaeontologist (b at Gloucester, Upper Canada 5 May 1820; d at Montréal 14 June 1876). Billings's interpretation of fossils belonging to the GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA was partly responsible for that organization's early success. He started professional life as a lawyer (1844-52), subsequently devoting himself exclusively to natural history. He contributed articles to the Bytown [Ottawa] Citizen and the Canadian Naturalist and Geologist, which he founded in 1856.

His publications on fossils came to the attention of W.E. LOGAN, director of the Geological Survey of Canada, who appointed him survey palaeontologist in 1856. The study of fossils collected by the survey occupied him for the rest of his life. His insight into the stratigraphic value of fossils helped to identify the formations visited by GSC field parties, and provided Logan with information upon which he later based his concept of the "great overlap" (first published description of thrust faulting), and contributed to the success of Logan's monumental work Geology of Canada (1863). Of Billings's scientific writings, 2 items stand out: Figures and Descriptions of Canadian Organic Remains (1858-59) and Palaeozoic Fossils (1865-74).