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Saint John, New Brunswick

George Frederic Matthew

World Famous Paleontologist: George Frederic Matthew

   Though George Matthew never took geology classes in school or received a university degree, he received more international recognition than any other New Brunswick geologist. His secret was simple: constant curiosity and work.

   George Matthew was born in Saint John in 1837. As well as being a busy seaport in those days, Saint John was the centre of much scientific activity. George became interested in rocks at an early age and started collecting them wherever he could. When he was 16 he started working at the Saint John Customs House. He wanted to be a geologist, and thought such work was hard to find, he pursued his dream by reading about geology and exploring the cliffs around Saint John. At the age of 20, he and his friends formed the "Steinhammer (German for "rock hammer") Club". The club took field trips and met regularly to discuss geology.

   Soon after the Steinhammer Club was formed, George met Loring Woart Bailey, another enthusiastic geologist. They became best friends and worked on many geology projects together.

   One day, during a field trip in the summer of 1864, George, Loring and a third geologist, Fred Hartt, made a very important find together. Just east of Saint John, they stumbled across a rich treasure of TRILOBITE fossils. Trilobites are now extinct, but these horseshoe shaped, crab-like creatures lived in the oceans about 500 million years ago! In fact, their closest living relatives may be a shrimp-like creature named cephalocarid. The three geologists made large collections of fossils from their find which they sent to Cambridge, Mass., for further study. Their discovery turned out to be the oldest fossil bearing rocks know in North America and Europe! The site has since been visited by paleontologists from around the world.

   George Matthew found more than 350 new kinds of fossils during his career. Nearly all were located in Southern New Brunswick. Famous geologists from around the world visited Saint John to see George and his exciting discoveries. He even had a mountain named after him - Mount Matthew which is in Northern New Brunswick near Nictau Lake.

   Another important discovery of George Matthew is the focus of the New Brunswick museum's newest exhibit, FOSSIL HUNTER, which will be on display this summer.

This story was taken from the Telegraph Journal, Saturday, June 20/98

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