Alexander Murray

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Alexander Murray

Birthplace: Dollerie House, Crieff, Scotland
Death: Died in Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of Anthony Murray, 8th Laird of Dollerie and Helen Fletcher Murray
Husband of Fanny Cooper Murray and Eliza A Murray
Father of Major General Anthony Hepburn Murray; William Edmund Logan Murray; Alexander Graeme Murray and Bernard Fabricotti Murray
Brother of Anthony Murray, 9th Laird of Dollerie, WS; William Murray; Helen Murray and Margaret-Anne Murray
Half brother of Margaret Oliphant

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About Alexander Murray

Alexander Murray was born in Crieff, Scotland, the son of Anthony and Helen (Fletcher-Bower) Murray. He worked in Britain and Canada, before coming to Newfoundland in 1864 to become the first director of the Geological Survey. His first major task was to produce a reliable topographical map of the interior of the island. Murray did detailed work in the are between Hall's Bay and St. George's Bay, as well as the area surrounding Conception, Placentia and St. Mary's Bays. He also mapped parts of the Great Northern Peninsula and central Newfoundland. From 1868 he was assisted by James P. Howley.

In an attempt to increase the rate of settlement in wilderness areas, Murray proposed, in 1874, to introduce a township survey. His plan was to subdivide the land in the drainage basins of the Gander and Exploits Rivers, into six-mile square blocks. This, he thought, would provide the land owners with a more secure tenure for development. He also proposed the designation for specific areas for possible timber, agricultural or mineral use.

Murray was educated at the Royal Naval College (Portsmouth) and went on to serve in the British Navy (1825-35), rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He arrived in Canada in 1837 and supported the British colonial government against the rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie (1795 - 1861). In 1842, he was appointed as assistant to fellow Scot Sir William Logan (1798 - 1875) who had just established the Geological Survey of Canada in Montreal. Murray mapped the rocks of the Great Lakes region. In 1864, he was appointed Director of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland. Murray set about undertaking the first accurate survey of the island, producing both topographical and geological maps. He was the first to thoroughly explore the interior and wrote in detail on the available minerals. A direct result of all of this work was that the industrial and agricultural potential of Newfoundland could be realised.

In 1875, Murray was able to provide his old friend Sir Sandford Fleming (1827 - 1915), the builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, with the best route for a railway across Newfoundland. With his assistant, James Howley, Murray was also responsible for the core of the geological collections of the Newfoundland Museum. He retired in 1883.

The Alexander Murray building is home to the Earth Science department of Memorial University (Newfoundland).

Murray produced the first geological map of Newfoundland and his reports of rich resources in the island's interior were an important factor in the decision to build the trans-island railway in 1881.

Poor health caused him to return to Scotland in 1883. He was succeeded as director of the Geological Survey by Howley.

Source: Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1995

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Alexander Murray's Timeline

June 2, 1810
April 27, 1837
Age 26
October 30, 1840
Age 30
January 28, 1868
Age 57
September 11, 1872
Age 62
January 3, 1876
Age 65
October 25, 1877
Age 67
December 18, 1884
Age 74