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David Douglas (Courtesy Whyte Museum, M106/7)

David Douglas

(1799-1834) David Douglas was a Scottish botanist and naturalist. He was appointed botanical collector for the Horticultural Society of London and in 1823 travelled to eastern North America. The following year he rounded Cape Horn and spent two years exploring and discovering new varieties of trees and plants. One of the many samples sent back from this trip was the evergreen which carries his name, the Douglas Fir. Douglas suggested that its wood, "may be found very useful for a variety of domestic purposes." In 1827 he crossed Athabasca Pass with the Hudson Bay Company and during this passage overestimated the elevations of Mount Brown and >Mount Hooker by several thousand feet which resulted in mountaineers searching for these legendary huge mountains in the late nineteenth century. He was killed in Hawaii when he fell into a bullock pit and was gored to death by a trapped animal. During his brief lifetime it is said that he contributed approximately 7,000 previously unknown species of plants to our understanding of the natural world. His journal entitled, "Journal during Travels in North America, 1823-1827," was published in 1914. "There is scarcely a spot deserving the name of a garden in which some of the discoveries of David Douglas do not form the chief attraction," noted one twentieth century horticulturalist. "To no single individual is modern horticulture more indebted." [See Mount Douglas]