Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Sandford Fleming


Fleming, Sir Sandford (1827-1915), civil engineer, was born at Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, Scotland, on January 7, 1827, the son of Andrew Greig Fleeting and Elizabeth Arnot. He studied surveying and engineering in Scotland, came to Canada in 1845, and entered the service of the Northern Railway. Of this railway he became chief engineer in 1857. He was chief engineer of the Intercolonial Railway during its construction; and in 1871, he was appointed engineer-in-chief to superintend the surveys for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He surveyed the route through the Yellowhead Pass which is now followed by the Canadian National Railway; and he was the first to demonstrate the practicability of the route through the Kicking Horse, Eagle, and Rogers passes. In 1880 he retired from the service of the government; and thereafter he devoted himself to literary and scientific work. He was the pioneer of the twenty-four-hour-day system of time reckoning; and he was the father of the idea of an infra-imperial system of cable communication. Though never a member of parliament, he played a prominent part in public life. He was an ardent imperialist; and it is worthy of record that it was he in 1849 who rescued, from the burning Parliament Buildings at Montreal the portrait of Queen Victoria. He became a vice-president of the United Empire League; and he was one of the Canadian representatives at the Colonial Conferences of 1887 and 1894. He was created a C.M.G. in 1877, and a K.C.M.G. in 1897. In 1855 he married Ann Jean, daughter of Sheriff Hall of Peterborough, Upper Canada, and he had six children. In 1882 he was chosen a charter member of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 1888 he became its president. He was an LL.D. 'of St. Andrews University (1884), of Columbia University (1887), of the University of Toronto , (1907), and of Queen's University, Kingston (1908). Of Queen's University he was for thirty-five years (1880-1915) the chancellor. He was also for many years a director of the Hudson's Bay Company and of the Canadian Pacific Railway. [Sandford Fleming was also the designer of the first postage stamp of Canada in 1851.]He died at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on July 22, 1915.


His chief publications were Railway inventions (Toronto, 1847), A railway to the Pacific through British territory (Port Hope, 1858), The Intercolonial (Montreal, 1876), and Canada and British imperial cables (Ottawa, 1900), besides numerous reports on railway surveys and construction work, and papers contributed to scientific periodicals.


See L. J. Burpee, Sandford Fleming, empire builder (Oxford, 1915), with portrait and bibliography.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College