Guided Tour with Briony Penn


In 2015, Briony Penn published, The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, "the first official biography of Ian McTaggart Cowan (1910–2010), the 'father of Canadian ecology.'” Based on her book, Briony has created a digital walkthrough of Cowan's life. Click on the button below to start your guided journey...


A note from the author: This abridged version of the original 558-page book published by Rocky Mountain Books in the fall of 2015, has been specially prepared for the University of Victoria Library and Special Collections to showcase and curate the Ian McTaggart Cowan Collection of field notes, photographs, documents and television shows that was donated to the university by Ann and Mikkel Schau. Rocky Mountain Books have generously supported this abridged version by Briony Penn. 

Cowan’s long career culminated in his last appointment as Chancellor of the University of Victoria in 1979, making the university a fitting resting place for the collection and this curated digital introduction to his life from 1910-2010. The writing of The Real Thing focused on the first half of Cowan’s century-long life, during which he wrote the majority of his field notes and scientific publications and developed his television series. The University of Victoria Library Special Collection also includes documents and field notes from 1960s onwards but remains terra incognito—ripe for future researchers of environmental history. 


CBC Television
Introduction: The Real Thing: the Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan