Gift of painting honours Earth Science pioneers
This is the story of two adventurers, the Canadian Rockies, a couple of Ontario lakes and a handful of dinosaurs. Oh yes, and a painting. Let’s start with the painting, which was recently donated to U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences.
It’s a watercolour of Cataract Pass, a snowy range overlooking the Brazeau and Cataract Rivers on the border between Alberta’s Jasper National Park and the White Goat Wilderness Area some 2,400 metres above sea level. Cataract Pass was one of Arthur Coleman’s favourite places.
Coleman was a geology professor at U of T in the early 1900s whose passion for mountains and glaciers led him to explore the Rockies eight times on various expeditions. Mount Coleman and Coleman Glacier in Banff are both named after him.
Coleman once described Cataract Pass in a book he wrote about the Rockies as possessing “fine peaks of dark red quartzite on each side, with glacier about their shoulders,” a romantic image he later captured in one of his many paintings. Thanks to the generosity of Diana Parks McIntyre, this painting now hangs in the department’s Coleman Room, which is also named for our adventurer-scientist-artist. Parks McIntyre is the granddaughter of William Parks, the second adventurer in our story.
Will Parks, as he was known, was a student, protegé and close friend of Coleman’s at U of T. In 1900, he became the first person to receive a PhD in geology in Canada, and he would go on to teach geology, mineralogy and paleontology here until his death in 1936. Parks and Coleman were at times inseparable and even wrote a book together, Elementary Geology, with a special reference to Canada, although Parks was better-known for the five-volume guide The Building and Ornamental Stones of Canada.
During the summers, Parks portaged into the wilderness of Northern Ontario to survey the land, and even named a couple of lakes — Lake Jean and Barbara Lake northeast of Thunder Bay — after his wife and sister-in-law, respectively. In addition to the copper, nickel and gold deposits he discovered during his many geological expeditions, Parks amassed an impressive collection of fossils from around the province. In 1913, he became the first director of the Royal Ontario Museum of Palaeontology (which later became the Royal Ontario Museum, or ROM), and established its first artifact collection with fossils from his own collection.
Now this is where the dinosaurs come in. Parks’ passion for paleontology took him to Alberta in the early 1920s, where he and his fellow fossil finders from U of T made several remarkable discoveries, including the 70-million-year-old fossil of a large duck-like lizard that Parks named Parksosaurus (meaning “Parks’s lizard”) , the tank-like Dyoplosaurus (meaning “double-armoured lizard’) and the rhino-like Arrhinoceratops (meaning “no nose-horn face”).
“I never knew my grandfather but the stories my father told me about him were very loving,” says Parks McIntyre. “He was an amazing man and I have been so humbled to realize all he accomplished in his lifetime.”
The painting of Cataract Pass, one of two paintings which Coleman gave to Parks and his wife, has been treasured by the Parks family for almost a hundred years. But Parks McIntyre now feels it’s time to share the painting with the people who are carrying on the work of Coleman and her grandfather, two explorers, scientists, teachers and kindred spirits. “It has been my pleasure to give the gift of the Coleman painting to University of Toronto,” she says. “Knowing the Coleman Room has this famous geologist’s work for professors and students to enjoy makes me so happy.”