Charles W. Nash

Charles W. Nash

AUGUST 15, 1848 – FEBRUARY 13, 1926

Charles William Nash was a distinguished Ontarian scientist who was most well known for his service for the Farmers’ Institute. A man of tremendous knowledge with a lifelong passion for ecology, he was diligently involved in spreading scientific information to farmers for the betterment of agricultural development.

Nash was born in Bognor, Sussex, England on August 15, 1848. During his early childhood he developed an acute fascination with the wildlife around his family’s seaside estate. Demonstrating a scientist’s inquisitiveness at a young age, he would collect small animals and keep them in stone jars that he had made himself.

Nash emigrated to Canada in 1869 and settled in Ontario, eventually founding a game and fish protective association in Hamilton (something considered very unusual at the time). In the 1880s he moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, where he practiced law, but this could not keep him from continuing his ecological observations. His expertise soon became a valuable asset to the community and to the country at large, as his intensive study of flora and fauna led him to develop ideas on the economic value of such things to agriculture. His extensive knowledge in this respect soon caused his services to be in demand to address meetings on animal life and to investigate ravages of insect pests in the country.

In 1887 he returned to Ontario to practice biology full time. It was during this time that the Farmers’ Institutes began to open up in Ontario for the advancement of agricultural education. In 1899 they acquired his services and he became a lecturer in biology at the Farmers’ Institute Bureau of the Ontario Department of Agriculture, a position he held for ten years. Nash would deliver two addresses a day to local farmers, making over 2,000 addresses throughout his career. He would travel through Ontario from one end to the other addressing gatherings of farmers on a variety of topics of special interest to them, such as nature study and horticultural topics. His main topic at these addresses, however, was livestock, specifically the principles of breeding. In addition to this, he did considerable work of a similar character for the Dominion Department of Agriculture, even making addresses in French in Quebec.

Nash also served as biologist for the Ontario Provincial Museum, during which time he published extensively and served as a judge for the natural history exhibits at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. Furthermore, he owned one of the most complete collections of birds in all of Canada in his office in the Provincial Museum, which he almost entirely obtained himself. He was also a member of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club and the Ornithological Subsection of the Biological Subsection of the Canadian Institute. Throughout his career he demonstrated not only a personal passion for science but a dedication to advancing the vanguard of scientific agriculture, which won him the admiration of all those who knew him.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture