DAVIDSON, George

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George Davidson (1825-1911)
Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, CA
Two Bald Eagles shot by Davidson on
San Miguel Island, c. 1891
ANSP 33149; ANSP 33150

DAVIDSON, George (1825-1911), native of Scotland, surveyor and astronomer who emigrated to Philadelphia with his family when he was seven years old. He became a noted scientist, surveyor and astronomer and important member of the U.S. Coast Survey for half a century — from 1845 to 1895. Davidson was Superintendent of the survey on the West Coast from 1850 to 1857.

In 1853 as a result of his work aboard the Ewing with Lieutenant James Alden, Reconnaissance Chart of the western coast of the United States from San Francisco to San Diego was published. It includes an inset of Catalina Harbor. Davidson spent the summer of 1856 aboard the R. H. Fauntleroy which resulted in charts of portions of San Clemente, Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands.

Davidson's crew spent about three weeks at the home of Don Anastasio Carillo in Santa Barbara awaiting the steamer Goldhunter (later renamed Active). While there they visited the local attractions including the hot springs in the Coast Ranges and the Mission Santa Barbara. In Lawson's words, they "did the town" and talked with the old otter hunters Isaac Sparks and George Nidever. [Lawson, J.S. 1879. The Autobiography of James S. Lawson. Unpublished manuscript. Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley; Special Collections of the NOAA Central Library, Silver Spring, Maryland]

Davidson, who was a ‘crack shot,’ collected two bald eagles on San Miguel Island, the earliest known to have been collected from the California Channel Islands. They are deposited in the Academy of Sciences, Philadelphia:

October 23, 1871 George Davidson, of the U.S. Coast Survey, writes to the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia: “...the largest box contains 19 bird skins from some island [San Miguel Island], but I wish to retain the eagle (old one) for myself” (Davidson 1871). Two Bald Eagle skins from San Miguel Island, both taken by Davidson, are in the collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia [ANSP 33149, 33150]. These are the earliest known specimens from the California Channel Islands. (Figure 44). In 1872 Joseph Leidy reports: “Skins of Haliæetus leucocephalus, two... from the West Coast of North America, presented by George Davidson” to the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (Leidy1872).


George Davidson = [1858] Ellinor Fauntleroy (1837-1907):

  • George Robert Davidson (1859-1861)
  • George Fauntleroy Davidson (1862-1900) suicide
  • Thomas Drummond Davidson (1865-1934) never married
  • Ellinor Campbell Davidson (1877-1944) never married


Santa Catalina Island Latitude Station, Santa Catalina Island, is a triangulation station set by George Davidson in 1852 and relocated by Stehman Forney in 1875.
San Clemente Longitude Station, San Clemente Island is a triangulation station set by George Davidson in 1852 and relocated by Stehman Forney in 1878.


In 1892 the Sierra Club was founded by 182 charter members, of whom Davidson was one. In 1911 at the urging of the club, San Francisco’s 938-foot Blue Mountain was renamed Mount Davidson to honor his significant scientific achievements.


Davidson died at age 86 in San Francisco on December 1, 1911. The Davidsons are buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, CA


George Davidson (1825-1911)
Courtesy NOAA Central Library

George Davidson, Pioneer Surveyor


http://www.lib.noaa.gov/noaainfo/heritage/coastsurveyvol1/BACHE6.html#ENDPACIFIC


  • 1868-1872. Davidson, George Concerning G. W. Blunt and the Fossil tooth of Santa Rosa Island California Academy of Sciences Proceedings IV: (152) 1868-1872


  • 1869. Davidson, George Coast Pilot of California, Oregon and Washington Territory, Washington 1869


  • 1873-1874. Davidson, George The Abrasion of the Continental Shores of Northwest America and the supposed Ancient Sea Levels Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 5 (lst series):90-97, 1873-1874


  • 1887. Davidson, George Submarine Valleys of the Pacific Coast of the United States Bulletin of the California Academy of Sciences 2(6):265-268, 1887


  • 1887. Davidson, George Early Spanish Voyages of Discovery on the Coast of California Bulletin of the California Academy of Sciences 2(6):325-335, 1887


  • 1889. Davidson, George Pacific Coast. Coast Pilot of California, Oregon and Washington, 4th edition (entirely rewritten) Washington, 1889


  • 1910. Davidson, George. The Origin and Meaning of the Name California and Calafia the Queen of the Island of California Geographical Society of the Pacific. Transactions and Proceedings 6(Part 1) Series II. 1910. Wraps.
[original in SCIF archives]


  • 1932. Wagner, H. R. George Davidson, Geographer of the Northwest Coast of America Quarterly of the California Historical Society XI:4 (299-320), 1932


  • 1954. [DAVIDSON, George]. Lewis, Oscar. George Davidson, Pioneer West Coast Scientist Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954. First edition in d.j.
[original in SCIF archives]


  • 1973. [DAVIDSON, George]. King, William Forr. George Davidson: Pacific Coast Scientist for the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1845-1895 Proquest copy of PhD theses, Claremont University, 1973. 306 p. Bound wraps.
[original in SCIF archives]


  • 2004. [DAVIDSON, George]. Morrison, Taylor. The Coast Mappers New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. First edition in d.j.
[original in SCIF archives]



Island Collections~
ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26560 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26561 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26562 Fratercula cirrhata Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26563 Fratercula cirrhata Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26564 Ardea alba egretta Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26566 Haematopus ostralegus Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26566 Haematopus bachmani Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-26567 Haematopus bachmani Birds
San Miguel Island George Davisdon AND (1871?) ANS-33149 Haliaeetus leucocephalus Birds
San Miguel Island George Davisdon AND (1871?) ANS-33150 Haliaeetus leucocephalus Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-33219 Cepphus columba columba Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-33220 Cepphus columba columba Birds
San Miguel Island George Davidson ANSP (1871?) ANSP-33221 Cepphus columba columba Birds




In the News~

April 16, 1852 [DAC]: “The U. S. Surveying Steamer Active — This fine steamer, which has been purchased for the U. S. Government, to be used in prosecuting the Coast Survey, has been refitted and placed in excellent running order. She will sail today for for the purpose of continuing the survey of the coast between this port and San Diego. The following is a list of her officers: Lieutenant Commanding, Richard M. Cuyler… Mr. George Davidson goes down the coast for the purpose of making observations at the most important points between this and San Diego.”


November 7, 1871 [SFDEB]: “The regular meeting of the Academy of Sciences was held last evening… W. G. W. Harford presented several shells of the Helix ayresana, found on San Miguel Island in large abundance… Mr. Harford exhibited a large white bird, which had been shot on San Miguel Island while flying, and wanted to know its species… Mr. Harford also exhibited a fossil found near the top of a mountain on San Miguel Island. Mr. Harford also displayed several Indian curiosities dug by himself and W. G. Blunt, both of the Coast Survey, who are now studying the traces of the now extinct race of Indians formerly occupying the San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands. They were taken from Indian graves or pits, one of which he mentioned as being about 25 feet in length. The bodies had been thrown in irregularly. The skulls showed marks of violence, many of them being smashed in. The curiosities consisted of beads, arrowheads, pipes, rude ornaments, paint, etc. Professor Davidson said the explorations had proved the islands to have been extensively populous. It was not improbable that centuries ago a Japanese or Chinese junk may have been wrecked and the crew drifted to one of these islands and mixed with the natives. He hoped Mr. Harford would reduce his investigations to writing.”


July 7, 1877 [SBDP]: “Santa Barbara Channel. On the seventh page we print a compilation from the official description of the coast of California made by Prof. George Davidson of the United States Coast Survey, giving the names and positions of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands...”


June 23, 1888 [LAT]: “San Francisco. The carload of lobsters from Massachusetts arrived here this afternoon, and was immediately forwarded to Santa Cruz. The lobsters will be placed in protected boats, where they will be kept for a few weeks to regain their normal vigor. Their final station has not yet been decided upon. Professor Davidson of the Coast Survey favors putting the lobsters in small colonies in coves down as far south as Piedras Blancas…”