John Clarence Webster
Biography of John Clarence Webster
John Clarence Webster was the son of James Webster and Rosaline Chapman in Shediac, New Brunswick. While a surgeon he wrote medical and scientific treatises, but upon retirement from medicine, he turned to historical research and helped found museums at Saint John and Fort Beauséjour.
Webster matriculated from Mount Allison, a small country college, in 1878. He received his medical education at Edinburgh, which was his headquarters for thirteen years after he left for Europe on a ship in 1883. He specialised in gynaecology and obstetrics, taught at the universities and carried out research.
In 1896, Webster returned to Canada to take a position with McGill at Montreal. In 1899 he married Alice Kessier Lusk, and together they had three children, Janet Webster, John Clarence Webster, and William Lusk Webster. The same year, 1899, he took a position at the University of Chicago, where he remained for twenty years. Following his resignation in 1919 he left medicine, returned to his home at Shediac, and turned to the study of history.
Webster is now mainly remembered for his contributions to the knowledge of the early history of Canada and in particular early Nova Scotia, a topic on which he amassed an impressive collection of books and prints. This collection was given to the New Brunswick Museum. He became a Trustee of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, a Member of the Historic and Monuments Board of Canada, and the Honorary Curator of Fort Beausejour Museum.
- In addressing the National Conference on Education and Citizenship in 1926, Dr. Webster said:
"Serious as may be the stagnation of trade, I am much more perturbed by the stagnation and decadence in cultural and educational standards and in the higher thought of the country, indeed, many of the economic ills are directly traceable to the latter conditions ... The inspiration, even the lessons of the past, have been forgotten by the majority, and we live only in the present, the richness of our great heritage utterly ignored as a motive force in our national life."
(As quoted by Dr. Alfred Goldsworthy Bailey, Curator of the John Clarence Webster Collection, New Brunswick Museum in an address made in 1936.