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Elkanah Billings (May 5, 1820 – June 14, 1876) is often referred to as Canada's first paleontologist. Billings was born on a farm by the Rideau River outside Bytown (Ottawa), now known as Billings Estate. His parents were named Lamira and Braddish Billings. His family included an older sister named Sabra and an older brother Maj Braddish Billings Jr, who practised as an architect and served in the North-West Rebellion. His younger siblings were Samuel, Sarah (known as Sally) and Charles.[1] He was originally educated in law and in 1845, he was called to the Canadian bar. In 1852, he founded the journal the Canadian Naturalist (and Geologist). He continued to practise law until 1856, when he was hired to be the first paleontologist for Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). In his lifetime, he identified 1065 new species and 61 new genera, including Aspidella, the first documented fossil of the Ediacaran biota.[2]

Elkanah Billings
Elkanah Billings.jpg
Elkanah Billings
Born(1820-05-05)May 5, 1820
DiedJune 14, 1876(1876-06-14) (aged 56)
Scientific career

He married Helen Walker Wilson in 1845. However, he was childless.[1]



  • Gover, Nancy (1986), A brief history of the Billings family of Ottawa 1812-1975., Ottawa, Ontario: Billings Estate Museum
  • Kitchen, Kevin (1996), Braddish Billings, Esquire, early Ottawa entrepreneur. Bytown pamphlet series., Ottawa, Ontario: The Historical Society of Ottawa


cover of Canadian Naturalist and Geologist volume 1 number 3
  1. ^ a b City of Ottawa. "Elkanah Billings, 1820-1876". Billings Estate National Historic Site. Retrieved 19 April 2010.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ William Miller (2007). Trace Fossils: Concepts, Problems, Prospects. Elsevier. pp. 19–20. ISBN 0-444-52949-7.

Further readingEdit

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