Taylor, Andrew

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Taylor, Andrew

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Andrew Taylor B.Sc (C.E.), M.A., Ph.D, D.Sc., O.C.,(1907-1993) has proven to be one of Canada's foremost polar explorers. An immigrant to Canada from Edinburgh, Taylor earned his Engineering Degree from the University of Manitoba in 1931. Upon graduation, he landed a job as a Provincial Surveyor and in that capacity, he observed much of rural Manitoba prior to its transformation at the hands of hydro-electric, agricultural, mineral, timber and urban development.

Taylor moved to Flin Flon Manitoba in 1933 and eventually settled in as Town Engineer. In this capacity, many of the roadways, drains, sewers and water supply lines are left as part of his legacy. The town was as influential on him as he was upon the town. It was here that Taylor met his future wife, Martha Porter, whom he married in 1939. He also developed a close friendship with Phil Foster, Flin Flon's flying plumber. Taylor followed Foster into the Second World War; action which was to ultimately claim Foster's life and leave Taylor embittered for the loss of a close friend and the lack of personal recognition for the part he played in the conflict.

With the outbreak of war, Taylor joined the Canadian Army and traveled to the United Kingdom, where, from his own admission, he saw no action whatsoever. However, in 1943 he was transferred from the Canadian Army to the British Navy as part of a secret mission. The initial name of the mission, "Naval Project 475", was changed to "Operation Tabarin". Taylor sailed with this mission to the Antarctic, where he remained for two years. The project then underwent a second name change becoming known afterwards by the moniker of "The Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey". Taylor himself, recruited because of his cold weather surveying experience, later became leader of the expedition. He earned the distinction of being the only Canadian to have ever commanded an expedition in the Antarctic.

In 1946, upon his return from the Antarctic, Taylor received a promotion to Major and a posting in the Canadian Army, specifically to the Directorate of Enginering Development in Ottawa. Once there, he was immediately recruited into the role of observer on an American/Canadian weather station reconnaissance venture, called "US Naval Task Force 68". As part of this expedition, Taylor traveled in and around the Queen Elizabeth Islands, the northernmost reaches of the Canadian Arctic. During this tenure at the Directorate, Taylor was appointed to the Canadian Committee of the International Geographic Union (1947) and the Soil and Snow Mechanics Committee, National Research Council (1949).

In 1950, Taylor took an educational sabbatical from the army in order to enroll at the Institute of Geography of the University of Montreal. There, as a result of linguistic miscommunication, he undertook and completed the required course work for both his M.A. and his Ph.D in a single academic year.

Following the year at Montreal, Taylor returned to the Directorate of Engineer Development in Ottawa, where he worked ostensibly on cold weather testing of military equipment in close cooperation with the U.S. Corp of Engineers Research and Development Laboratories at Fort Belvoir, Vermont. In conjunction with this work, Taylor joined the Snow, Ice and Permafrost Research Establishment (SIPRE), where he developed an expertise in the compaction of snow for employment in roads, airstrips and other high pressure uses. Taylor retired from the Army in Oct, 1952, too early to collect a military pension - a situation which became a source of much consternation to him in later years.

Having left the Army, Taylor struck out on his own as a private research contractor. He received an important contract from the geography Branch of the US Navy to produce what ultimately developed into his Ph.D. dissertation. In 1956 he was awarded a second contract, this time from the U.S. Air Force as an assistant project Engineer, working out of Churchill, MB. He was responsible for the preparation of DEW Line station layouts. After only a few months and upon completion of his work in Churchill, Taylor was transferred to New York to complete some "forty odd" reports regarding the project.

As part of his research for his thesis Taylor "discovered" the Arctic Blue Books - or the British Parliamentary Papers. These volumes contained submissions to both the Upper and Lower Houses of the British Parliament regarding 19th century exploration. Unfortunately these volumes were really not produced as a book but rather more as a collection of submissions with neither a table of contents nor an index. Consequently, access to the information contained therein was a difficult process at best. So, Taylor dove head-first into the project that presented itself to him and he indexed the volumes by hand with the aid of his wife and children. The index was comprised of 44,000 index cards which have subsequently been updated, edited and put onto compact disk under the direction of University of Manitoba anthropologist, Dr. William Koolage.

With the completion of his American contracts, Taylor found himself preparing feasibility reports for mining companies. From here, it was a natural move to open his own engineering consulting firm, based jointly in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Significant projects his firm undertook were: the relocation of Provincial Trunk Highway # 10 through Riding Mountain National Park, 1961; the irrigation system for Clear Lake golf Course (also in Riding Mountain National Park) 1961; and Town Planning schemes for Baker Lake, NWT, Eskimo Point, Whale Cove 1962 and other northern communities. It was at this stage in his life that Taylor lost his wife Martha to cancer in 1963. He married Pauline Hansen in November of 1964. She too succumbed to cancer in December of 1979.

Taylor's final professional endeavour was that of joint proprietor of the Antiquarian Book and Art Gallery. It appears that the venture may have been a hobby for the retired Taylor, although this is only speculation.

Through-out his career, Taylor was an avid writer, penning military reports, official and private diaries and an M.A. thesis and a Ph.D. dissertation as well. However, during the final dozen or so years of his life he turned to "popular" writing, producing a prodigious quantity of unpublished work, mostly related to the town of Flin Flon.

Chronology of Important Dates

1907 Born - Edinburgh, Scotland

1911 Emigrated to Canada

1924 Entered University of Manitoba

1931 Graduated from U of M., B.Sc (Civil Engineering)

1933 Designated Dominion Land Surveyor

1935 Moved to Flin Flon, MB

1939 Married Martha Porter

1940 Joined Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Engineers

1943 Transferred to Operation Tabarin

1946 Return from Antarctic

1947 Appointed to Naval Task Force 68

1950 Completed M.A. & Ph.D course work

1952 Retired from Army

1953 Awarded Canadian Forces Decoration [C.D.]

1954 Awarded Polar Medal

1963 Martha died of cancer

1965 Married Pauline Hansen

1979 Pauline died of Cancer

1986 Order of Canada

1990 Viljhalmur Steffanson Award

1991 Honourary Doctorate of Science

1992 Northern Science Award

1992 Commemorative Medal

Oct 8, 1993 Taylor died, aged 86


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Created by Jeffrey M. Long (1996). Revised by N. Courrier (September 2019).




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