Isaac Chipman (1817-52) - First Geology Professor at Acadia from

Geology at Acadia - the Early Years, by Dr. R. Moore

The Department of Geology at Acadia must ever be indebted to Isaac Chipman, who in January 1840, at the age of 23, became professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at an annual salary of £100. Chipman was born in Cornwallis, the son of a pastor. He was licensed by the Church to preach the Gospel in 1836, and graduated from Waterville College (later Colby University) in Maine in 1839. In his letter of acceptance of employment at Acadia he wrote, "In choosing a permanent employment I wish to be in a situation which will tax my powers to the utmost, yet so as to succeed, as what will most improve myself will best benefit others."

Chipman was instrumental in rousing people to contribute to the building of the first University Hall, "travelling over mountain and valley, through fine weather and foul...until there came forth timber, boards, shingles, nails, glass, paint, oil and other materials for the work in hand" (from a memorial address by William Elder, 1889).

Chipman was a man of great vision and energy, who also had an earnest love of study. He was always in his element when surrounded by books, and kept abreast of the times. It is not surprising, then, that he began the library at Acadia, and also started the College Museum for which he personally collected numerous plant, animal and mineral specimens and encouraged others to make donations.

Apart from his many other responsibilities, Professor Chipman also found time to teach. According to the calendar for 1841, sophomore students were required to take Natural Philosophy. The course apparently covered "Statics and Dynamics" and "Mineralogy and Geology". His approach to teaching was practically oriented with a strong emphasis on lab and field work, rather than books and recitations. So geological instruction took birth at Acadia, scarcely one year after its founding.

Isaac Chipman was also an early proponent of adult education and gave special lectures in Geology. He showed great insight in writing in a letter, "One obstacle to the enlightening of this country has been that the informed portions of the community have assumed, or aimed to assume, a sort of awful distance from those whom they would style the rabble."

Chipman, like his successors who have taught Geology at Acadia, was very fond of geological excursions, and it was while leading such an excursion to Blomidon in 1852 that he lost his life. William Elder, later teacher of Geology at Acadia, wrote in his memorial address:

"From the point between the Habitant and Canard rivers, my father and I watched the little boat in which Professor Chipman, Rev. E.D. Very of St. John, and four of the college students were returning from Blomidon with the two men who had charge of the craft. It was afternoon of Monday, June 7, 1852. The southwest wind blew a gale. The little sail became unsteady. There was confusion as of men quickly moving from place to place in the boat. A few moments more of anxious suspense and the boat disappeared. All perished except one of the boatmen who gained the shore with difficulty".

So ended the 12-year career of Acadia's first Geology teacher.

Details of the tragedy were published in the Acadian Recorder, of June 12, 1852 (second column of page 3 at:, or article captured here.