The Real Thing

The Real Thing is the first official biography of Ian McTaggart Cowan (1910–2010), the “father of Canadian ecology.” Authorized by his family and with the research support and participation of the University of Victoria Libraries, Briony Penn provides an unprecedented and accessible window into the story of this remarkable naturalist. From his formative years roaming the mountains around Vancouver looking for venison to his last years finishing the voluminous and authoritative Birds of British Columbia, Cowan’s life provides a unique perspective on a century of environmental change—with a critical message for the future.

As the head and founder of the first university-based wildlife department in Canada, Ian McTaggart Cowan revolutionized the way North Americans understood the natural world, and students flocked into his classrooms to hear his brilliant, entertaining lectures regarding the new science of ecology. His television programs in the 1950s and ’60s, Fur and Feathers, The Web of Life and The Living Sea, made him a household name around the world. He was also responsible for hiring a young David Suzuki, who followed in his nature-show-host footsteps.

Illustrated throughout with colour and black-and-white photos from all aspects of Cowan’s life, The Real Thing takes the reader on an adventurous and inspirational journey through the heart of North American ecology, wilderness, landscape and wonder.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
The Real Thing 1
Contents 5
Preface 7
Part 1, The Early Years:1 910–1920 19
Chapter 1: Edinburgh, 1910–1913 21
Chapter 2: Vancouver, 1913–1919 37
Chapter 3: North Vancouver, 1923–1925 49
Chapter 4: Vancouver, 1925–1927 61
Part 2, The Formative Years:1927–1929 79
Chapter 5: Vancouver, 1927 81
Chapter 6: Alta Lake, 1928 93
Chapter 7: UBC, 1927–1929 99
Part 3, Gathering Skills: 1929–1932 107
Chapter 8: Kamloops, 1929 109
Chapter 9: Newgate, BC, 1930 121
Chapter 10: The Rockies, 1930 139
Chapter 11: Tofino, 1931 149
Chapter 12: Vancouver Island, 1931 165
Chapter 13: Chilcotin, 1931 173
Chapter 14: Cariboo, 1932 181
Part 4, The Berkeley Years: 1932–1935 193
Chapter 15: Berkeley, 1932–1933 195
Chapter 16: Berkeley, 1933–1935 211
Part 5, The Museum Years:1935–1940 219
Chapter 17: Victoria, 1935–1936 221
Chapter 18: Okanagan Honeymoon, 1936 233
Chapter 19: Ootsa Lake – “The Way Down,” 1936 237
Chapter 20: Mount Revelstoke, 1937 249
Chapter 21: Peace River, 1938 265
Chapter 22: Coastal Islands, 1939 283
Chapter 23: UBC and Okanagan, 1940–1942 301
Chapter 24: Fraser Valley, 1941–1942 315
Part 6, The Early University Years: 1941–1950 325
Chapter 25: The Rockies, 1943 327
Chapter 26: The Rockies Again, 1944 347
Chapter 27: Queen Charlotte Islands, 1945–1946 369
Chapter 28: Mackenzie Delta, 1947 391
Chapter 29: Chilcotin and the Ashnola, 1947–1948 411
Part 7, Travel, Television and Advocacy: 1952–2010 427
Chapter 30: Scotland and Europe, 1952–1953 429
Chapter 31: Saturna Island, 1954–1960 443
Chapter 32: Coast to Mountains, 1953–2010 457
Afterword 479
Acknowledgements 480
Table of Species 483
Notes 491
Bibliography 533
Index 559
About the Author 576